Planning to give birth in a hot tub? According to recent reports, water births might not be obstetrician-okayed just yet. The Boston Globe says that two prominent physician groups, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have issues a new recommendation advising against the practice, with few exceptions.
The two groups agree that, during the early part of labor, soaking in warm water can help to reduce a woman’s pain and might shorten labor. One famous advocate of water births is supermodel Gisele Bunchen, who delivered her son Benjamin in a bathtub back in 2010. However, both medical groups advised against using the practice during the final pushing stage of labor. The safety of this delivery style “has not been established,” they say. Although the obvious, though rare, danger is of drowning, the more likely dangers include the possibility of infection owing to contaminated water, a dangerous rise of body temperature in the baby (thanks to the hot water), and potential issues with umbilical cord rupture.
“There is a potential for more risk with an underwater birth,” said Dr. Jeff Ecker, an obstetrician and chair of the ACOG’s committee on Obstetric Practice. An earlier, 2010 study which their recommendation cited detailed the delivery of four babies who developed severe breathing problems directly after being delivered in water — one died of a sepsis infection. The full reality is that few real studies have been done to determine, ultimately, how risky the practice truly is, compared to the potential benefits.
Although it might not be safe (yet) to give birth in a hot tub, there are still many potential health benefits for people looking for relief from pain or other issues. Water buoyancy can reduce body weight by 90% — this helps to relieve pressure placed on muscles and joints. In another study outlined in the Huffington Post, researchers found that blood flow increased 10% when subjects were immersed in water, which can help improve vascular health and cognitive function.