Of mermaid fantasies and birthing tubs

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I do not have a mermaid fantasy and I do not care that celebrities are doing it. It worked for me and I hope to do it again.

Water birth.

The topic — recently in the news after both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines cautioning women about water births — is one I’ll talk about for hours.

My daughter was born in the water, in a hospital, just a few months ago, and it was a beautiful and safe experience. In fact, I decided to give birth at a hospital nearly 45 minutes from my home because they offered a birthing tub.

The report, published in “Pediatrics,” on March 20 stated that while water immersion can help laboring moms feel relaxed and may shorten labor, birthing in the water has “no proven benefit to mother or baby.” It also stated that giving birth under the water can increase the risk of infection, umbilical cord damage or breathing problems.

Since the report, most of what’s being talked about is in reference to the risks. And frankly, there have been a few who have made it seem like not only a risky thing to do, but a stupid, “trendy” thing too. Good Morning America hosts jokes on air that water birth is something women are being influenced by celebrities to try. They also interviewed an OB who said maybe women want to have water births because they have a “mermaid fantasy” and that “until we grow gills like a fish, babies should come out breathing air.” Really? Because as I understand it, babies don’t need gills in utero.

Now, I’m not naive enough to thing there isn’t risk involved. But there’s risk involved with every type of labor and delivery whether in a hospital, at home, in a birthing center or under a tree in the woods. If precautions are taken, the risk isn’t and shouldn’t be any higher than laboring flat on your back in a bed. It certainly isn’t higher than a medically unnecessary cesarean section, which are performed daily in hospitals around the US.

Prior to my birth, my midwife told me about the risks involved in using the tub, she tested me for infection, then stayed with me from the time I set foot in the water, to when I walked back to my recovery room.

The baby’s heartbeat was continuously monitored. I was never left alone, and as soon as she was born, she was pulled out of the water and placed on my chest. It was a very calm experience, she just sort of stared up at me slowly realizing that she had left her watery home of nine months.

Every woman deserves the chance of an empowering, safe and comfortable-as-possible birth. For some, that may mean an epidural from the first sign of a contraction, for others, it may mean laboring and birthing in a tub. But until there is concrete evidence that a baby or mom is in more danger in the water than out, don’t judge, and certainly don’t tell any woman she has weird underwater fantasies.


Natalie Feulner

About Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the same time.