A study found that water births don't post harm to newborn babies. Water birth is a method wherein babies are intentionally born in a pool or bathtub.

Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) analyzed the data of over 6,500 water births attended by midwives in the United States. They found that babies born using the water birth method don't have increased chances of experiencing low Apgar scores compared to newborns born in a different way.

Apgar scores refer to the newborn's measures of physical condition, which includes respiratory effort, heart rate, muscle tone, skin coloration, and stimuli response. It is done by adding certain points (0, 1 or 2) to each category. A sum of 10 points represents the best possible condition for the newborn.

The team also found that babies born in water don't have increased chances of being transferred to hospitals post-birth or being hospitalized during their first six weeks of life compared to babies born the traditional way. The study was published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health.

"The findings suggest that water birth is a reasonably safe, low-intervention option for women who face a low risk of complications during the birthing process," said lead author and epidemiology instructor Marit Bovbjerg from OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Bovbjerg stressed that these choices should be made in collaboration with a medical expert.

The data used in the study were taken from 2004 to 2009 by the Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project or MANA Stats. Almost 17,000 women participated and majority of them were aided by Certified Professional Midwives. The midwives also provided case reports. Over 6,500 women in the study gave birth using the water birth method either in a birthing center or in the comforts of their own homes.

While the team found no increased risks of harm for both newborns and their mothers, findings showed an 11 percent increase of perineal tearing in women who had the water births. A perineal tear is an unintended tearing of skin and soft tissue structures that separate vagina and anus in women. This often occurs post-vaginal childbirth.

Bovbjerg said that for some, the potential increased risk of perineal tearing could be compensated by the other benefits of water birth, including enhanced pain management. There is no single correct choice in choosing birthing methods. The pros and cons of each method should be analyzed thoroughly by the soon-to-be mother.

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