Water Birth

At Mercy Medical Center

Giving birth in a warm tub of water can make the birthing process gentler and more soothing. Laboring in water has been shown to calm and comfort a laboring mom, reduce pain, and ease tense muscles. Water birth also decreases adrenaline production, allowing for a shorter labor, and the pressure on the abdomen, which means better blood circulation and more oxygen to the mother and baby due to the buoyancy of the water. Mercy Medical Center offers both water birth (labor and delivery in water), as well as and the option to spend a portion of labor in a tub but deliver traditionally.

Watch this video for a tour of the water birth experience with certified nurse midwife Deanna Schwake.

When will my baby take a breath?

You may wonder how your baby breathes underwater. The baby will take his first breath when his skin contacts air or cold. The air contact starts a complex process in the baby’s body that results in the baby taking a breath. Researchers believe the change in air pressure and temperature triggers the breathing reflex. Your baby receives oxygen from you, the mother, through the umbilical cord during the first few moments while the baby in underwater. The baby is stable as long as the cord is intact, and the placenta is working as it does before and during the birth.

Pain medications

You can use natural pain control methods and/or an injection to take the edge off. Epidural and intrathecal pain control methods cannot be used during water birth.

Benefits for mom

  • Water is soothing, comforting, relaxing.
  • In the later stages of labor, the water seems to increase your energy.
  • Buoyancy lessens your body weight and allows free movement and new positioning.
  • Buoyancy promotes less pain and relaxation for you and in turn improves the blood supply to the uterus and results in delivering more oxygen to your baby.
  • Immersion in water often helps maintain your blood pressure, which can rise from anxiety.
  • Water seems to alleviate stress and allows your body to produce endorphins, which are pain inhibitors.
  • Water helps reduce the incidence and severity of tearing and the need for an episiotomy and stitches.
  • As you labor, you will relax physically and mentally and will better concentrate on the birth process.
  • Water will provide you with a sense of privacy, which helps lessen your inhibitions, anxiety and fears.

Benefits to your baby

  • Creates an environment similar to the amniotic sac.
  • Eases the stress of the birth and provides reassurance and security for baby.

Clothing options

Most women choose to wear something like a sports bra, t-shirt, swimming suit top or a hospital gown.

Where do I start if I want a water birth?

If you desire a water birth, we encourage you to discuss your wishes with your health care provider.  Birthing in water is not for everyone.  Some women and babies have medical issues that would not allow for water birth as a safe option. Consider signing up for a hypnobirthing class.


For more than 30 years, water birth has grown in popularity. Studies in Europe have shown water birthing does not result in increased harm or risk to the baby compared to conventional births. There has not been any increased infection noted among infants delivered in water vs. conventional birth deliveries. We keep records to monitor all outcomes, of water birth, including the occurrence of infection. Water birth should always occur under the supervision of a health care provider.

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Appleton, WI 54915
(920) 738-2000

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