Amy Falkenberg, MD
Amy Falkenberg, MD





The Advantages of a Waterbirth


Amy Falkenberg, MD
Family Medicine
OakLeaf Clinics – Eau Claire Medical Clinic
Chippewa Falls

Congratulations! You’re pregnant!! Now what?!?! Once you’ve dealt with the morning sickness, exhaustion and general discomforts of early pregnancy, many families are ready to think about other aspects of their pregnancy, including the birth process itself. Whether this is your first or 11th child, every birth experience is special. Many women envision a natural childbirth. This can mean something different for everyone. For some, this simply means, “not a Cesarean section.” For others, this may mean a birth without use of any pain medications for labor. Whatever that means to you, there are a variety of options to facilitate a healthy, safe delivery of your baby.

One of the choices many women around the world are finding helpful is the use of water during labor and delivery to ease the labor process and provide a calm environment to welcome their newest family member. Hydrotherapy, or waterbirth, has been used by women for centuries to ease the labor process and oftentimes decreases the amount of time a woman is in labor.

Waterbirth is a safe and empowering process intended for women with uncomplicated pregnancies who want to work closely with their maternity provider and desire to avoid use of medications or other interventions during their delivery.

The use of a warm water bath during labor and delivery has been shown to improve a mother’s ability to relax and allow the birth process to proceed naturally. During the later stages of labor, the water has been shown to be able to increase a woman’s energy. The weightless sensation in the water makes it easier for the mother to move and change positions. The ability to float can also promote more efficient uterine contractions and improved blood circulation, improving oxygen supply to the uterus and therefore more oxygen for baby. The relaxing effect of the water will often help lower blood pressure by decreasing anxiety. The water also is felt to reduce stress-related hormones and allow a mother’s body to produce natural pain inhibitors known as endorphins. Warm water allows the perineum to become softer and allows for this skin to stretch more easily during the birth process, often reducing the severity of tearing or need for an episiotomy and stitches. Many women feel that the birthing tub provides a greater sense of privacy and therefore helps to reduce inhibitions, fears and anxiety.

There are benefits for baby as well, including providing an environment like that within the uterus. Waterbirth is also felt to ease the stress of birth on the infant, and therefore improve the sense of security for the infant and improve bonding with the mother.

Most of the research completed on waterbirths has been performed in the UK and Europe. Some studies have shown that the risks to the baby born by waterbirth are comparable to those born on land. There is also a possible risk of water entering the mother’s bloodstream. Although the baby is still receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord until it is exposed to air, there is a chance that a baby experiencing stress during labor may gasp for air and inhale some water. The final identified risk is that the umbilical cord could snap as the baby is brought to the surface.

There are times that a water birth is not appropriate. Individuals with certain infections, like Herpes, HIV or Hepatitis, should not deliver in the water. If a baby is not in a ‘head-down’ position, waterbirth is not advised. At this time, it is not advised to deliver by waterbirth if the baby is premature. If you have certain medical complications affecting your pregnancy, waterbirth may not be a safe option.

Your maternity provider is the best person to talk to about your labor and delivery choices. Your OakLeaf maternity providers in OB/GYN, Family Medicine and Midwifery are happy to work with you to make your special delivery healthy and memorable.


Amy Falkenberg, MD – OakLeaf Clinics – Eau Claire Medical Clinic
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715-839-9280 |
Dr. Falkenberg sees patients in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire.