Fact or Fiction: Is Waterbirth Less Painful? (A Series)

There are certain things people hear over and over about pregnancy and childbirth. But repetition doesn’t mean a statement is true — it just means it’s popular or fun to share. Things that get repeated often have an element of truth, but when it comes to information about childbirth, it’s important to know the whole truth. In this new series, we help you separate fact from fiction about some of the most common beliefs about pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood. 

Claim/Inquiry: Water birth is less painful. / Is water birth less painful?

Truth: According to multiple studies, people who labor and give birth submerged in water report lower levels of pain than people who do not give birth in the water. Studies also report decreased anxiety and multiple research teams found a significantly reduced need for pain relief, including epidural. (Resource, with a list of studies and researchers: Evidence Based Birth)

Reality: While the majority of people report reduced pain and increased satisfaction with a water birth, it’s important to remember that pain is subjective — unique to each individual. What works for one person may not for another. Ideally, in your chosen place of birth, submerging in water (via tub or birthing pool) is one of the many options available to you as you labor and birth. Tour your birth facility to find out more about what’s available to you, or ask local childbirth educators and doulas about facilities that offer water birth. Some hospitals allow you to labor in water, but request that you get out of the water to give birth. Water birth tub rentals are available for use at home births. 

You can learn more about water birth, including the pros and cons and benefits and risks with this in-depth review of the evidence on water birth at Evidence Based Birth

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