Women's experiences with water birth: A matched groups prospective study

Birth. 2018 Dec;45(4):416-423. doi: 10.1111/birt.12362. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


Background: Water birth has become an increasingly popular childbirth option, but has also come under scrutiny because of its possible risks and benefits. The primary objective of this study was to explore potential benefits of water birth by comparing the experiences of women who gave birth in water versus conventionally. We also compared maternal and newborn outcomes.

Methods: We performed a prospective study of 66 women who had water births and 132 who had conventional births. Data collected included demographics, labor and birth characteristics, perinatal outcomes, and maternal scores on the Childbirth Experience Questionnaire (CEQ). Groups were matched for variables known to influence CEQ scores.

Results: Women in the water birth group had more positive childbirth experiences compared with the conventional birth group (P < .001), and also compared with the subgroup of women who had epidural anesthesia (P = .002). After controlling for potential confounders, water birth was associated with a decreased likelihood of perineal lacerations requiring repair (P = .001) and a higher rate of breastfeeding initiation in the delivery room (P < .001). Adverse outcomes such as neonatal intensive care unit admission, blood loss >500 mL, 3rd/4th degree lacerations, and perinatal infections were rare. The study was not sufficiently powered to detect differences in rare outcomes.

Conclusion: Water birth was associated with more positive maternal childbirth experiences as represented by CEQ scores. Adverse outcomes were rare in both the water birth and conventional birth groups.

Keywords: complementary and alternative therapies; pain and coping in labor; water birth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects
  • Delivery, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain*
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Logistic Models
  • Natural Childbirth*
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Perinatal Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult