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Dr. Max Gomez: Growing ‘Water Birth’ Trend May Be Unsafe

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Two major doctors’ groups have said that a growing trend that involves giving birth in a tub of warm water is not good for babies and could even be dangerous.

Water birthing has been around for years. It’s soothing for the mother and is supposed to make the transition from the fluid filled womb to the outside air less traumatic for the baby, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained.

Mid-wives and mothers who want to deliver at home are proponents, but pediatrician and obstetrician’s groups both urge caution.

“I actually had back labor because my daughter was face up when I was laboring with her. So, in between my contractions I had excruciating low back pain,” Elizabeth Steinke said.

One of the things that eased the pain for Steinke was sitting in a specially designed birthing tub at the Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital birthing center.

It’s a growing trend that can be done in those special tubs, but just as often is done in home tubs or inflatable kiddie-type pools that can actually be rented for the purpose.

While it may feel more natural for the mother, it has raised questions about whether it is safe for the baby.

“Until we prove that it is safe, it’s best to do underwater delivery of the baby only under research protocol,” explained Dr. Rebecca Starck, Cleveland Clinic.

A consensus statement has been released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, saying that the technique could provide some benefit to women in the early stages of labor but that delivering underwater has no proven benefit to the mother or the baby. It could even pose serious and sometimes fatal health risks.

Researchers concluded that underwater births should be considered experimental and not performed unless part of an appropriately designed study.

“Be careful that if they choose a water birth to go to a center where they are providing strict guidelines and protocols and realize that at any point in time your plan may change because we feel that it is in the best interest of both you and the baby,” Dr. Starck said.

Steinke never intended to deliver her baby underwater and is glad that she was in a hospital based birthing center.

“My daughter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her body 6 times and so she came into the world the way she needed to. It was an emergency c-section,” Steinke said.

The statement did say that labor in warm water can decrease pain and shorten labor, but could cause serious infection from contaminated water, electrolyte problems from swallowing water, or brain damage from a lack of oxygen in the event that the baby tries to breathe underwater.

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