Trendy water births are safe, a new study found.
It had been feared using birthing pools may pose a risk to the newborn baby.
But there was no difference in the numbers of babies needing to be transferred to hospital after being born in water or within their first six weeks of life than newborns born on “dry land.”
Nearly 100,000 women give birth in pools in the UK every year.
They said the warm water encouraged and enabled them to relax more during the labour and birth.
Relaxing and less stress in turn allows the woman’s body to release more of the hormone oxytocin which stimulates contractions and dilates the opening of the womb.
It also increases the production of endorphins, the body’s natural source of pain relief, and reduces the need for other forms of pain relieving drugs.
The Oregon State University study, published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, compared 6,500 water births when a midwife was present and was one of the largest to date.
It found babies born in water were no more likely to experience low Apgar scores, a way of measuring babies’ health at birth.
Dr Marit Bovbjerg said: “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.
“These are decisions that should be made in concert with a medical professional.”
However, the researchers found an 11 per cent increase in perineal tearing among mothers who gave birth in water.
Dr Bovbjerg said: “For some women, that potential risk of tearing might be worth taking if they feel they will benefit from other aspects of a water birth, such as improved pain management.
“There is no one correct choice. The risks and benefits of different birthing options should be weighed carefully by each individual.”
Associate professor Melissa Cheyney added: “Our findings suggest that water birth is a reasonably safe option for low-risk women, especially when the risks associated with pharmacologic pain management, like epidural anesthesia, are considered.”