Water for labour and birth: getting back to the art of doing nothing

Megan Cooper, Jane Warland, Helen McCutcheon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the documented anecdotal benefits and an increasing global uptake by facilities and practitioners, the practice of water immersion (WI) for labour and birth continues to be challenged on a number of fronts. The combination of a pregnant woman with a bath of water remains problematic for many, with consistent challenges raised about the associated risk and therefore safety of the practice. Whilst there is a recognised paucity of rigorous research surrounding WI there is evidence to suggest that water provides more than just physical benefits to women. However, practitioner fear remains a barrier to the adoption of WI in maternity care units around the globe as does the risk averse views that suggest that water is just too risky. Despite this, there is emerging evidence to suggest that many practitioners view WI as just another mode of birth and therefore, no riskier than birth on land. This paper considers these issues in the context of contemporary maternity care and discusses WI as a way of restoring women's choice and the midwifery philosophy of birth as a normal physiological event.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-58
Number of pages6
JournalMIDIRS Midwifery Digest
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Labor and delivery
  • Labour and delivery
  • midwifery
  • water immersion (WI)
  • water birth
  • maternity care
  • contemporary maternity care
  • midwifery philosophy
  • midwifery philosophy of birth


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