Over the last few years, water births have steadily increased in popularity. According to its’ advocates, giving birth in water is gentler for the baby since he has been living in an amniotic fluid sac.
For babies, a water birth allows them to enter the world with less stress and enables them to experience a heightened sense of security.
Mums, on the other hand, get to enjoy a few benefits as well, including improved privacy, mental and physical relaxation, lower blood pressure, and reduction of stress-induced hormones.
But despite these benefits, a water birth does come with a few risks. One of these is the risk of babies contracting Legionnaires’ disease. In fact, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC issued a warning cautioning parents about the risk of infants succumbing to the dreaded disease through water births. This warning comes after the CDC’s report about two cases of newborns in Arizona contracting the disease. These cases in Arizona show a serious breach in protocol in water birthing. In fact, both cases of infections were reportedly from at-home water birthing.
Earlier in 2016, a baby born in Texas via water birth suffered respiratory distress after being born in a birthing tub that was filled with tap water and was sent to a hospital just 1 day after birth.
In the first case, the water birthing was supervised by a midwife in January. The baby was then rushed to a nearby hospital after displaying signs of respiratory distress and low blood oxygen. Although the tub used for the delivery was clean and sanitised using vinegar, the water used was not clean. According to investigators, the main culprit is the plumbing system in the home where the child was delivered.
The other case of newborn infection occurred in April where the baby was delivered in a rented Jacuzzi. Four days later, the baby succumbed to high fever and was brought to a nearby hospital. At the hospital, the staff confirmed that the newborn was suffering from Legionnaires’ disease.
Luckily, these newborns were brought to the hospitals early and so the disease was found and treated properly. In both cases, the babies had to take a 10-day course of antibiotics and were able to survive.
Although the use of appropriate measures cannot totally eliminate the risk of infection, there are a few ways that parents, healthcare professionals, and managers of healthcare facilities can substantially reduce these risks, and this includes the use of a Legionnaires’ water testing kit.
In both cases, the midwives overseeing the water birthing ensured that new tubs and new hoses were used for the procedure. However, in both water births, tap water that has not been treated was used, facilitating the infection.
Legionnaire’s disease is potentially fatal, especially to those who have weak immunity, including the sick, elderly and of course newborn babies. Families and midwives who are planning to facilitate water birth at home needs to have proper education on all potential dangers and implement appropriate action for the safety of the mother and the baby.