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The Water Birth study at Mater Mothers’ Hospital

What is water birth?

Water birth means that you will labour in a specially designed bath and your baby will be born under water. Your midwife will then help you to bring your baby to the surface of the water and place your baby on your chest.   

Is water birth available at Mater Mothers’ Hospital?

Water birth is not routinely available at Mater Mothers’ Hospital. If you would like the opportunity to birth your baby in water you will need to participate in the Water Birth Study. 

Am I eligible? 

To participate in the Water Birth Study you must:

  • read and sign the patient information sheet and consent form
  • meet certain eligibility criteria including:
  • aged 15 years or above
  • do not require an interpreter or legal guardian to consent
  • be in spontaneous labour between 37 and42 weeks pregnant
  • be pregnant with only one baby
  • the position of your baby is facing head down 
  • pose a low obstetric risk.

What are the benefits of having a water birth?

  • relaxing environment 
  • reduces blood pressure and stress levels
  • reduces the intensity of contractions
  • easy to move and change position
  • buoyancy and floating sensation
  • intimate and personal birth space
  • fewer interventions  
  • gentle and calm way to birth baby

What practical things can I do to prepare myself? 

  • Try having a bath at home, going swimming or attending pregnancy aqua-aerobics to see if you like the sensation of being in the water.
  • Enter the bath only when contractions are strong and regular. 
  • Keep your bottom under water during the pushing stage of labour until baby is born.

Are there any concerns associated with water birth? 

Exiting the bath

It can sometimes be difficult to get out of the bath, particularly in advanced labour or after the birth of your baby. Ask your birth partner, support person or midwife to assist you. 

Unpredictable emergencies 

Your midwife or doctor may ask you to exit the bath in the event of an emergency. 


It is important to make sure your baby does not overheat. As your baby’s temperature will be half a degree higher than yours, staff will regularly monitor your temperature, and the temperature of the water. If you develop a temperature, your midwife will ask you to exit the bath. Providing your temperature returns to normal, and baby continues to be well, you may re-enter the bath. 

Drowning and water inhalation 

When a baby is born the breathing reflex is initiated by light, sound and temperature. Breathing does not start under the water because the bath temperature is similar to the temperature inside their mother. The baby will usually take its first breath after being brought up to the surface and coming in contact with air. Babies born in water may not cry at birth.  

Important points to remember if you are planning a water birth:

  • Exit the bath regularly to empty your bladder. 
  • Keep hydrated by having sips of water regularly throughout labour.
  • If the temperature of the bath is too hot or cold, or if you feel uncomfortable, you can exit the bath at any time or ask your midwife to adjust the water temperature.
  • Communicate openly with staff so they can help you as much as possible.
  • Staff may ask you to leave the bath if they are concerned for the safety of you or your baby.

For further information on the Water Birth Study

Water Birth Study Patient Information Sheet. 

For more information on water birth, refer to:

Cluett, E.R., Burns, E. 2009 ‘Immersion in water in labour and birth’, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 2, article: CD000111. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000111.pub3.


Contact the Water Birth Study Research Team

Telephone: 07 3163 5306

The Water Birth Study has been approved by the Mater Human Research Ethics Committee.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430172
Last modified 08/8/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 03/6/2015
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