Water birth has garnered quite a good number of supporters over the years, especially those promoting a more natural way of delivering babies in lieu of using anesthetics to aid in giving birth. Most advocates perceive that doing the procedure in the water lessens the mother’s pain, ensuring a more subtle experience.

The method, however, does not come without detractors because of fears of possible infection to the newborn. Although measures are enforced to ensure the cleanliness and safety of a birthing pool, it is not easy to write off the probability that microbes or physical deficiencies to the pool can affect the baby.

One such scenario happened at a home birthing pool where a newborn was infected with Legionnaire’s disease, as reported by Public Health England and the NHS. It was the first case in the country of a baby acquiring the deadly Legionella bacteria in a birth pool, and the second pediatric incident in England in the last 20 years. Most recorded cases affect adults and older patients. These incidents prove the urgent need for every birthing facility to know the proper method on how to test for Legionella and other water-based contaminants.

 

Hospitals with birthing pools should therefore be extremely cautious when utilizing such. Safety and hygiene should be considered above all, maintaining a good consideration of possible microbiological contamination, scalding temperature, faulty electrical wirings or structural deficiencies. The bath should be filled with domestic water from the hospital’s facility and should follow the strict guidelines implemented in the management procedures. Periodic tests such as Legionella water testing of water sources should also be done to eliminate the presence of bacteria such as Pseudomonas, E. coli, and Legionella as well as to check for total viable colony count and algal growth.

Legionnaire’s disease is a form of pneumonia that is contracted in water, specifically those which are heated, including hot-water tanks, cooling towers, condensers and birth pools. Mortality rate for such infections vary from five to 30%, varying on the time when the antibiotics are administered. A delay in the diagnosis can prove fatal, especially to a newborn.

If the water supply in the hospital bath is proven to contain Legionella, the service should not be used and should be equipped with proper filters before it is used again. Peripheral items such as hoses and heater units must also be cleaned with a diluted solution of chlorine dioxide after each birth.

Though it has a lot of question marks and proven red flags, a birthing pool still has its advantages. In the end, the crucial and most important aspect of using it lies in guaranteeing that one does not miss a step in ensuring its safety and cleanliness.

+Duncan Hollis