Doctors Opinion Birthing Pools As A Safe Social-Distancing Option For Labours During The Pandemic

UK’s Oxford Brookes University has published academic opinion that concludes labouring in water is one of the safest ways to give birth during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The University’s own Dr Ethel Burns (senior Midwifery Lecturer) and Dr Claire Feeley (Assoc Lecturer), were joined internationally by colleagues Dr Jennifer Vanderlaan (Assist Prof Univ of Nevada), Dr Priscilla Hall (Midwifery Instructor from Emory Univ Atlanta, and Dr Charles Roehr (Assoc Prof of Neonatology at Oxford Univ Hospital); to jointly publish article “Coronavirus COVID-19: Supporting healthy pregnant women to safely give birth”.

Some countries are estimating a doubling in home-birth rates since the pandemic began and this Oxford Brookes University article states “The birthing pool environment presents a natural barrier between the woman and her midwife”. The authors encourage water immersion as an effective method of analgesia should be supported, with robust research consistently concluding water immersion reduces the needs for obstetric interventions.

The Doctors explain of the use of Birthing Pools during labour “By virtue of being immersed in any standard sized birth pool, there is more space between her and her midwife” and “This protected personal space is valued by women and provides a natural barrier”. They add “COVID-19 is not a waterborne virus”.

According to Oxford Brookes University relating to COVID-19:

  • Many pregnant women are experiencing heightened anxiety and fear around labour for themselves and their babies.
  • A woman labouring in a birthing pool reduces droplet, aerosol and faecal contamination, resulting in creating a lower-risk transmission rate for Coronavirus.
  • For straightforward pregnancies, such midwifery-led primary-care settings also mean women have fewer interactions with health professionals than birthing in a secondary/tertiary-care Hospital.
  • Water-labours and water-births are a mainstay care option for women at Home and in Birth Centres.

Senior Midwife, best-selling maternity Author and managing director of Kathy Fray agrees “Labouring in warm water has been well-known for many years as being a highly effective way for women to manage the pain of contractions, and the ‘wall’ of the pool’s sides has always made women feel ‘cocooned’ within an added layer of privacy space”.

Fray continues “The unforeseen benefit during a pandemic of a woman labouring in a waterbirth pool, is the reality that it absolutely does naturally create an effective social-distancing ‘barrier’ inhibiting other people entering her ‘bubble’ – especially in comparison to the common scenario of the woman lying on a hospital bed with support people closely at her side.” Fray concludes “During this pandemic, more than ever, every woman with a healthy normal pregnancy should be seriously considering labouring in water in a primary-care setting as potentially being safer than labouring in a Hospital bed with an epidural onboard.”