Frequently Asked Water Birth Questions

mother and child

How long has OHSU offered waterbirths?

OHSU nurse-midwives have offered waterbirth since 1997, a decade longer than any other in the Portland metro area. Our nurse-midwives believe it is an important option for women who approach labor naturally.

What kind of equipment does OHSU have for water use in labor or for birth?

All of our birthing rooms are equipped with a jacuzzi bathtub and shower. A woman in labor can use either one. The jacuzzi is not very deep and is not big enough for a planned waterbirth. A special waterbirth tub is available to you if you have requested this option and have registered with the nurse-midwives. The tub can accommodate you and your partner comfortably.

How much does waterbirth cost compared to regular vaginal birth?

There are no additional fees or charges for use of the waterbirth tub.

How do I arrange a waterbirth at OHSU?

You must be a patient of the nurse-midwifery practice to have a waterbirth. We require that you watch two educational videos and sign a consent form.

To make an appointment with the OHSU nurse-midwives, please call the OHSU Center for Women’s Health at 503-418-4500.

Do I qualify for waterbirth?

Certain kinds of problems would not permit the use of the waterbirth tub. In general, your pregnancy must be normal with no sign of high blood pressure, diabetes, previous c-section, or problems with the baby. If you have medical or obstetrical problems that put you and your baby at high risk, you would not be allowed to give birth in the tub. In some instances, you may labor in the tub, but would be required to come out of the tub for delivery only.

What happens if a problem arises during labor?

The health and safety of you and your baby are the primary factors that influence decisions about your care. A problem for you or the baby will be handled in the same manner whether you are planning a waterbirth or a birth in bed. All maternity patients at OHSU have access to monitors, medication, obstetric specialists, pediatric specialists and surgical procedures as needed. If a particular concern arises when you are already in the waterbirth tub, you may be asked to move back to the bed.

How did waterbirth first get started?

The first recorded waterbirth was in 1803 in France. According to the story, a woman who had been in labor for 48 hours climbed into a tub of hot water to relax and her baby was born shortly afterward. Not much is mentioned again about the technique until the 1960s when a Russian scientist, Igor Charcovsky, began experimenting with the use of warm water immersion for women in labor. He wanted to see how the warm water affected their labor, the birth and newborn behavior.

In tthe late 1970s through the 1980s various obstetric practitioners began using warm water baths for laboring and birthing women. Dr. Michel Odent in France and Dr. Michael Rosenthal in California collected information about its effects, and women who had experienced waterbirth told their stories. Interest in the idea gradually spread around the world.

Where can I get more information about waterbirth?

The organization Waterbirth International was formed to encourage research, distribute accurate information and help people who were interested in the concept successfully implement the use of water baths for labor and birth. Waterbirth International has sponsored several international conferences on waterbirth. It is a great resource for books and videos.

Learn more about waterbirth here at OHSU by watching our videos about the process.

Schedule an appointment

To schedule an appointment, call 503-418-4500