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Aquatic immersion and birth injury risks, part 1: safety concerns

Doctors and midwives don't always see eye to eye.

Neither group has a monopoly on the truth about what's best for women in labor. And so the current debate between the groups on water immersion during the birth process needs to be examined closely.

In this post, we will discuss the safety concerns involved when women go through labor and perhaps even give birth in a tub of warm water.

National Public Radio reported on this story a few days ago. NPR noted that more and more hospitals are allowing pregnant women to choose to undergo so-called "aquatic labor."

But a prominent medical committee has recommended that women not give birth while immersed in water. The committee was the Committee on Obstetric Practice of the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Some advocates for midwife-conducted births question this recommendation. They believe that there is growing research evidence supporting the safety of aquatic birth.

But the medical committee's report concluded there is still a lack of sufficient evidence about the safety of bathtub births.

One possible concern with such births is that the baby could choke or even drown if it takes its first breath underwater. There is also some concern about infection risk among mothers giving birth while immersed in warm water.

What isn't clear, however, is whether the debate about water birth is primarily about safety and possible birth injuries at all. It may be about a tug-of-war between doctors and midwives for control over the birthing process.

We will discuss this phenomenon further in part two of our post.

Source: NPR, "Doctors Say Don't Give Birth To Baby In A Tub, But Many Midwives Disagree," Nancy Shute, March 23, 2014

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