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Professionals disagree on safety of water births

When most pregnant women are preparing for childbirth, they give significant time and thought to the kind of birthing experience they hope to have. Some women plan in advance to use pain medication, while others plan to go without. Some women plan to give birth in hospitals while others opt to give birth at home. And increasingly, many women plan to give birth in pools of water.

Numerous birthing experts insist that water births are safe, while others strongly warn against the practice of water births. In order to better ensure that their infants do not suffer birth injuries, it is important that pregnant women understand both sides of the debate. And in the tragic event that infants are harmed during water births, it is important for women to understand whom, if anyone, may be held accountable for that harm.

It is important to understand that there is a difference between laboring in water and actually giving birth in water. According to an opinion paper recently penned by the Committee on Obstetric Practice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, substantial evidence suggests that laboring in water is a safe practice, but significant questions remain pressing as to whether giving birth in water can result in added risk to both babies and laboring women.

In reaction to this published opinion, the director of the Nurse-Midwifery Education Program at the University of California, San Francisco told NPR that, “I would consider warm water immersion during labor and birth a midwifery standard of practice. We don't believe that the [doctors'] letter accurately portrays the growing body of research supporting water birth."

As a result of this debate, it has become more critical than ever for women to think twice about giving birth in water. It has also become arguably even more important than ever for women to come forward and share their stories if they or their infants have been harmed as a result of water births, in order to better inform the debate moving forward.

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

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