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Maternity - Water Immersion in Labour and Birth

At Southern NSW Local Health District, you can choose to labour and birth in water if it is considered safe for you and your baby. You can use the following information to have a discussion with your midwife or doctor to help you have a positive experience.

You can also download this information as a PDF, or ask for a copy from your midwife.

What are the benefits of water immersion?

The use of water immersion during labour and birth may provide you with an additional option for comfort, mobility and privacy. There is evidence that suggests when water immersion is used in an uncomplicated labour there is:

  • less use of drugs for pain relief, especially epidural analgesia,
  • an increase in relaxation and lower levels of perceived pain
  • fewer medical interventions for slow progress in the first stage of labour
  • a greater sense of control in labour.

If you have any questions or would like to read our procedure for the use of water immersion during labour and birth, please speak with your midwife or doctor.

When do we offer water immersion?

The maternity services in Southern NSW Local Health District suggest the following criteria are met, prior to offering you the opportunity for water immersion during labour:

  • Healthy with no pregnancy complications
  • Have only one baby in a head down position (not twins)
  • Are at least 37 weeks pregnant
  • Have no infections that may affect your baby
  • Are able to enter and leave the bath with minimal assistance
  • No use of injected pain relief within the previous four hours
  • A pre-pregnancy BMI less than 40 for the safety of yourself and the healthcare team if transfer is required.

When is water immersion not recommended?

During you labour there may be circumstances where your midwife or doctor will advise you to leave the bath to ensure the best outcomes for you and your baby.

It is important that you understand these circumstances before, and agreement is sought between you and your midwife or doctor on when care should continue out of the bath. These circumstances include:

  • If there are any concerns for your wellbeing such as bleeding, high temperature, feeling faint or unwell.
  • If there are any concerns for your baby’s wellbeing such as changes to the heart rate, meconium or blood-stained amniotic fluid when your waters break.
  • If the progress if labour is not normal, a period of time out of the water with walking can assist the contractions to increase in strength and improve the rate of progress.

Some considerations when choosing water

It is important to consider the following points when choosing to use water:

  • Someone needs to be with you at all times for support and you should have assistance available when you are entering and leaving the bath. This will prevent injury to yourself and your baby.
  • The bath water should be free from additives such as bath oils, gels and soap.
  • The water temperature can be regulated to your comfort during labour.
  • It is important to drink adequate fluids to avoid dehydration from the water and during labour.
  • The level of the water should be deep enough to ensure your body is fully submerged at the level for your breasts when seated or kneeling.
  • It is possible to use the nitrous oxide gas in the bath if you choose.
  • It is important that your baby is guided gently to the surface of the water.
  • You can choose to leave the bath at any time.

Further information

If you have any questions or would like to read our procedure for the use of water immersion during labour and birth, please speak with your midwife or doctor.

Service Contacts

  • 02 6491 9970
  • 02 6455 3230
  • 02 4827 3224
  • 02 6150 7190
  • 02 4474 1988 
Last updated: 28 February 2023