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Waterbirth

August 24, 2011

Do it in the bath

In my hospital we’re about to build a new midwife-led unit alongside each of our two consultant units.  Each midwifery unit and each consultant one will have a waterbirth pool – four in total.   At the architects meeting to try to shave costs off the plan, I suggested omitting the pools in the consultant units.  No way!   Women who need consultant level care must have the chance to give birth underwater.

I’m all for natural childbirth, but birth underwater is unnatural for humans.  Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, and it’s not something I’m going to campaign against, but I think new unnatural interventions should be evaluated properly.  Although there is some evidence that sitting in a warm bath relieves labour pains, actually delivering the baby underwater has never been subjected to a randomised trial.   Of course many thousands of babies have been born this way, and most appear to have done fine, but the history of childbirth is littered with interventions that seemed a good idea at the time, but were eventually shown to be ineffective, or even harmful.

During the meeting we debated labour rooms having shared or single toilets, and someone noticed that the draft plans for the waterbirth rooms had no toilet attached at all. 

“Is that a mistake?” they asked.   

“They do it in the bath!” someone else quipped.  

The architects were shocked, but there were knowing smiles from the doctors and midwives!

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