The Experience of Land and Water Birth Within the American Association of Birth Centers Perinatal Data Registry, 2012-2017

J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2020 Jan/Mar;34(1):16-26. doi: 10.1097/JPN.0000000000000450.


Consumer demand for water birth has grown within an environment of professional controversy. Access to nonpharmacologic pain relief through water immersion is limited within hospital settings across the United States due to concerns over safety. The study is a secondary analysis of prospective observational Perinatal Data Registry (PDR) used by American Association of Birth Center members (AABC PDR). All births occurring between 2012 and 2017 in the community setting (home and birth center) were included in the analysis. Descriptive, correlational, and relative risk statistics were used to compare maternal and neonatal outcomes. Of 26 684 women, those giving birth in water had more favorable outcomes including fewer prolonged first- or second-stage labors, fetal heart rate abnormalities, shoulder dystocias, genital lacerations, episiotomies, hemorrhage, or postpartum transfers. Cord avulsion occurred rarely, but it was more common among water births. Newborns born in water were less likely to require transfer to a higher level of care, be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, or experience respiratory complication. Among childbearing women of low medical risk, personal preference should drive utilization of nonpharmacologic care practices including water birth. Both land and water births have similar good outcomes within the community setting.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Delivery Rooms*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Natural Childbirth* / education
  • Natural Childbirth* / methods
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / prevention & control*
  • Patient Preference
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology
  • Procedures and Techniques Utilization
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • United States