The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) will release new recommendations on laboring and delivering in water in the April 2014 print issue of Pediatrics.
In a joint clinical report published online on Thursday, March 20, “Immersion in Water for Labor and Delivery,” both the AAP and ACOG determine that undergoing the first stage of labor in a birthing pool may offer some advantages, such as decreased pain and shorter labors. However, immersion in water during the second stage (underwater birth) has no proven benefit to mother or baby, and can pose serious and sometimes fatal health risks.
The AAP and ACOG conclude that there may be some benefits of water immersion for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies during the early stages of labor, but there is no evidence this practice improves perinatal outcomes.
The safety and efficacy of underwater birth has not been established, and it should be considered an experimental procedure that should not be performed unless under the context of an appropriately designed clinical trial with informed consent. Immersion during labor and delivery should not prevent or inhibit necessary equipment such as maternal or fetal monitoring from being used.