Background: Our purpose was to assess benefits and possible disadvantages of water births and to compare maternal and neonatal outcomes with normal vaginal deliveries.
Methods: This case-controlled study was carried out between January 2000 and July 2001. A total of 140 women who wanted water births were enrolled into the study. Our analysis was restricted to a sample of women with a gestational age > 37 weeks, a normal sized foetus, a reactive admission cardiotocography, drainage of clear amniotic fluid (if the membranes were already ruptured) and a pregnancy with cephalic presentation. Women with medical or obstetric risk factors were excluded. 140 controls were selected from the delivery database as the next parity-matched normal spontaneous vaginal delivery.
Results: A statistically significant lower rate of episiotomies (p = 0.0001) and vaginal trauma (p = 0.03) was detected in the group assigned to water birth, whereas the frequency of perineal tears and labial trauma remained similar in both groups (p > 0.05). A statistically significant decrease in the use of medical analgesia (p = 0.0001) and oxytocin (p = 0.002) was observed in women who had water births. A trend towards a reduction of the length of the first stage of labour was only observed in primiparous women bearing in water, but this reduction did not reach statistically significance (p > 0.05). Manual placenta removal (p = 0.017), severe postpartum haemorrhage (blood loss > 500 ml; p = 0.002) and maternal infection rate (p = 0.03) were statistically significant lower in women who delivered in water. When analysing the postpartum haemoglobin, no statistically significant differences could be observed between the two groups (p > 0.05). No statistically significant differences were detected for neonatal parameters (p > 0.05) between women who had had water births and those choosing conventional vaginal delivery.