Welcome back to our blog here at the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Birth Center, SCV’s premier birth center. Today, we have an exciting topic to discuss: water birth!

Water birth is a fascinating world within the natural birth realm and it is something that piques the curiosity of many expectant parents. They wonder, “Is it safe? How does it work? Can the baby breathe underwater?” These are all valid questions, and today we’re going to dive in headfirst (pun intended) to unravel the magic of water birth.

The Aquatic Journey Within

Alright, let’s get to the basics. Picture this: you have a beautiful baby growing snugly inside your belly. Well, guess what – your baby is already in water. The amniotic sac is like a cozy, watery haven for your little one.

In fact, while in the womb, babies don’t breathe air or oxygenate their lungs. Their lungs are still closed and are not yet inflated. Instead, they receive all the oxygen they need through the umbilical cord from their mother. So, when it comes to water birth, it’s essential to understand that babies are quite accustomed to their watery surroundings.

The Temperature Tango

When it comes to the water itself, it’s all about finding that sweet spot. The ideal water temperature for labor and birth is around 99 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s like a warm, comforting embrace.

However, don’t go jumping into a scalding hot jacuzzi just yet. Jacuzzis tend to be a bit too hot around 102 to 104 degrees, which is on the “too warm” side of things. They also maintain their high temperatures throughout your soak.

Instead – whether you’re birthing at home, a birth center or somewhere else with a tub – you can prepare a delightful hot bath. Since bathtubs don’t have heaters, the water will naturally cool off to provide a safe and enjoyable environment.

Remember, we’re aiming for warm, not boiling hot.

How It All Unfolds

Now imagine yourself in the birthing tub, feeling the absolute awesomeness of it all. The tubs designed for water birth are fantastic and they even come equipped with handy dandy handles. You can have your feet up against the tub and they really allow for fantastic freedom of movement during labor and birth.

As you labor and soak in the warm water, your baby is right there with you in the amniotic sac, surrounded by the water they’ve been floating in all along. Even if your water breaks before the baby is born, rest assured that there’s still plenty of water behind the baby. Your body continuously replenishes amniotic fluid, so there’s no need to worry about suddenly running out of water in your uterus.

Breathing Easy

Now for the million-dollar question: how does the baby breathe during water birth?

Well, just as we mentioned earlier, babies don’t start breathing air until they’re out of the womb and out of the water. When the baby’s head emerges, it’s perfectly fine because their lungs are still compressed and they’re still receiving all the oxygen they need through the umbilical cord.

In midwifery care, we assist with achieving optimal fetal positioning initially to pave the way for a smooth water birth. (If you haven’t already, check out our recent post about optimal fetal positioning.)

This initial positioning really allows babies to move as they need to during the entire birth process, such as rotating and turning to facilitate the passage through the pelvis. Rest assured, the baby is safe and sound in the water, not inhaling it.

The Magical Moments

Once the baby’s head is out, and the baby continues to receive oxygen from the mother and the umbilical cord, we wait for the baby to make the cardinal moves. This is when the baby will pause and turn sideways to allow the shoulders to pass through the mother’s pelvis.

Once the shoulders have delivered, the rest happens in a flash.

We all have a set of nerves around our mouths and this is what triggers the breathing instinct in newborns. Once they emerge from the water, those nerves come into contact with the air as the lungs inflate for the first time, and the baby begins to breathe.

With the help of your loving support team, you, your partner, or even a midwife gently bring the baby up and out of the water within seconds of their birth. We will place the baby right on the mother’s chest, getting that great skin to skin contact.

Then we’ll just place a warm washcloth over the baby to keep them cozy. As soon as they’re out of the water, they take their first breath and turn their natural pink color. It’s a beautiful process, where the lungs inflate, oxygenated blood flows, and the baby begins their life in the world outside the womb.

A Calm and Empowering Experience

Water therapy during labor is renowned for its remarkable pain relief properties. Most women absolutely love laboring in the water and finding solace in its soothing embrace.

While not everyone delivers in the water, many choose to at least attempt to push in the water. You can also get in and out of the tub as you please, tailoring your labor experience to your preferences. It’s all about finding what works best for you and your little one. Remember, when it comes to labor and birth, you have options.


And there you have it, the ins and outs of water birth. We’ve explored the mechanics, addressed the most common concerns about baby’s breathing during water birth, and uncovered the multitude of benefits it offers. Water birth is an empowering experience that harnesses the gentle power of warm water to bring your precious bundle of joy into the world.

If you have any questions, personal experiences, or thoughts on water birth, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to drop a comment below or join us on Instagram for more from the SCV Birth Center community.

Until next time, take care, stay curious, and remember: birth is a remarkable journey worth celebrating.

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