Underwater birth: less pain, more natural

You may have heard of underwater births; maybe not. What exactly is an underwater birth? What are the pros and cons of an underwater birth? What is needed for an underwater birth? You can read this and more in this article.

What is an underwater birth?

Many women already use warm water to absorb contractions. They do this by standing in the shower or sitting in the bath. With an underwater birth, as the name suggests, a woman gives birth in/under the water. The woman sits or hangs in a (special) bath in which the contractions are absorbed, pushed and ultimately delivered. The baby comes into this world through the warm water, which makes the transition less shocking.


In the 1960s, a researcher from the Soviet Union, Igor Charkovsky, conducted thorough research into the safety and possible benefits of water birth. In the later 1960s, French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer developed a method of immersing newborn infants in warm water. He did this to ease the transition to the outside world and to alleviate the consequences of various possible birth traumas. Another French midwife, Michel Odent, went a step further and used the water to ease pain for the mother and make the birth process more natural. In the late 1990s there were thousands of women who had given birth in water. This is how the concept of (under)water birth spread in the Western world.


A number of advantages of an underwater birth:

  • Warm water provides relaxation and soothes the pain;
  • Water makes you weightless and makes you move easier;
  • The chance of a cut or tear is smaller with an underwater birth;
  • High blood pressure is lowered by the warm water;
  • The dilation phase usually lasts shorter with an underwater birth;
  • Water babies recover faster from childbirth;
  • Due to the transition from amniotic fluid to warm water, the baby will not immediately feel the need to breathe on its own and it will first have the opportunity to recover a bit from the birth, which reduces the birth trauma;
  • Water babies cry little after birth and seek contact with the mother’s breast more quickly.
  • Partners can make themselves useful during childbirth.


However, there are also disadvantages to an underwater birth:

  • It causes more ‘hassle’, a special bath must (often) be arranged and this must be set up and filled before the birth.
  • You may not be able to complete the birth in the bath for medical reasons and that can cause disappointment.

To arrange

If you would like to give birth under water, it is important that you discuss this with your midwife first. Not all midwives have (much) experience in this area. Some midwives may prefer not to do this or have specific requirements. For example, a special bath is usually required that is large enough and which is always heated by means of heating elements. Such a bath can be rented or purchased from various agencies for 5 weeks. If you would like to have a water birth in the hospital, it is wise to first check which hospitals offer this option. This is by no means possible in every hospital.

Own experience

It is very personal whether an underwater birth is right for you and suits you. Do you like to relax in a warm bath? Then it might be something for you! You can also find videos on YouTube that can give you an idea of what an underwater birth works in practice.