The biggest benefit of having a water birth is comfort. There is something soothing about being in warm water. Laboring in water is sometimes called the "midwife's epidural" because of how effectively it can reduce the discomfort of contractions. It can help mothers relax which in turn can give the added benefit of helping labor progress faster than if the mother is laboring on land. Water birth is associated with a higher rate of vaginal birth.
The risks have not been well researched. As with any birthing situation there is always a risk of infection. This can be minimized with proper pool sanitizing and water filling techniques. There is also the chance that the baby may inhale some water although this is very rare. There is a risk of mother's temperature becoming elevated if the water temperature is too hot, however checking the temperature is an easy way to ensure the water is in a safe range.
What do I need for a water-birth?
For a water-birth you will need a birth pool and pool liner, a fish net for scooping solid matter from the water, a new unused hose and an adapter to hook it up to a faucet. A sump pump is helpful for draining the tub but is not a necessity.
I decided to offer water births after attending births where water immersion made a dramatic difference in comfort levels during labor. If you are interested in having a water birth at home, contact me to schedule a free consult.