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Add one more member to the ranks of celebrity home-birthers: Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly, 40, gave birth to daughter Agnes Lark on May 31 via a home water birth, according to People. Baby Anges joins big brothers Stellan and Kai, and Connelly joins home birthing moms like Gisele Bundchen and Ricki Lake.
You’re probably thinking what we're thinking: What, exactly, is a home water birth? And, as one skeptical friend wondered, does it involve squatting in a kiddie pool in the backyard?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a water birth is simply the process of laboring or giving birth in a tub of warm water. And while the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn't support home births -- in or out of water -- they are on the rise.
“Most of the time moms are using the tubs for comfort,” says midwife Vanessa Stephens Coldwater (yes, that's really her name), who gave birth to three children via water birth and now owns waterbirthresources.com, a birthing tub rental business. The water decreases the pain of labor and delivery, she says, because it relaxes your muscles. And since the water supports your weight, it can also make it easier to shift positions during labor or deliver in an upright position, both of which can speed things up.
Advocates say that water birth is a natural transition to the world for a baby who is coming from the fluid environment of the womb -- and that hormones and a newborn's reflexes prevent her from trying to take her first breath underwater. Critics, however, express concern that there's the risk of infection from the water in the tub, as well as the possibility that the baby may try to breath underwater.
Are you intrigued -- or freaked out? If you like the idea of laboring in water (but don't want a home birth), some hospitals may allow you to do it. Ask your doctor what she thinks about the option.