Study Explores Benefits of Giving Birth in Water

February 14, 2023

By Rivkah Lewin

If you’d like to dip your toes into what may be a more soothing way to deliver your baby, a clinical trial comparing giving birth in a tub of water versus on land is recruiting women participants.  The study, called “Hospital Waterbirth:  A Pilot Randomized Control Study,” is located in Milwaukee and sponsored by Aurora Health Care.

Researchers are studying low-risk, healthy women and newborns in a hospital setting.  Their theory is that women who labor and give birth in water will use less pain medication, be in labor for a shorter period of time, be more likely to start breastfeeding their baby before being discharged, will experience fewer negative outcomes, and be more satisfied by the experience than those who go into labor and give birth on land.

The trial is studying a “land-birth” group of women who are giving birth on land and a “water-birth” group of women who are experiencing labor and giving birth in a tub of water.  During the first stage of labor, women can enter or leave the water at any time.

The study is exploring eight primary “outcome measures,” which were chosen to assess the differences between water birth and land birth:  1. Pain medication; 2. Labor duration; 3. Timeliness of breastfeeding; 4. Patient satisfaction; 5. Reported maternal adverse outcomes; 6. Reported neonatal adverse outcomes; 7. Instrumental and Cesarean deliveries; 8. Skin-to-skin contact (concerning contact of the baby on the mother’s abdomen or chest).    Following birth, the participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire.

To be eligible, women must be 18 years or older and healthy; able to speak and understand English, be pregnant with a single fetus; able to walk with no trouble moving from sitting to standing; have less than class III (severity) of obesity; have no active infections, such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, etc.; have no pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart disease, uncontrolled asthma, diabetes, chronic hypertension, have no known need for Cesarean section; no high-risk pregnancy conditions, such as preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, etc.  They must also meet criteria related to labor and they may be excluded from the study for any other reason, at the discretion of the birth attendant.   

The study began on January 17, 2022, and researchers estimate that it will be completed on December 15, 2025.  The contact person is midwife Emily Malloy, CNM, APNP, phone 414-219-6649.  To read about the trial on the National Institutes of Health website, go to Hospital Waterbirth Trial to Measure Maternal and Neonatal Outcomes – Full Text View –  

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