…in fact may even be safer than Land Birthing

By Angela Jones

Dianne Garland, a freelance midwife and Barbara Harper, Founder/Director of Waterbirth International, together, are internationally respected as experts who have been working on aspects of waterbirth for both healthcare providers and parents since 1990. Collaboratively, they took an in-depth look at the implications of Covid-19 on waterbirth during this current pandemic.

In March 2020, in a joint paper from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) safety concerns about waterbirth and Covid-19 were raised. Research revealed that the virus had been found in faeces raising concerns about possible faecal contamination of the water used in birthing pools.

Dianne Garland and Barbara Harper stated, “Covid-19 is not a waterborne virus but is transmitted through the air, via droplets from coughing, sneezing, or breathing. Transmission can also occur where surfaces are possibly contaminated by these droplets. Immersing in warm water during labour and/or birth is more likely to reduce the risk of transmission. The release of faeces is often an eventuality of the normal labour process. However, there have been no recorded cases of the virus being transmitted via faeces or oral-faecal transmission.”

They further commented, “birth pools make rooms more humid. Recent research from China and Australia suggests that the higher the humidity, the transmission of Covid-19 decreases by attaching to the water droplets and falling rather than remaining suspended in the air.”

Ultimately, Dianne Garland and Barbara Harper found that:

  • Birth pools may be the safest places for birth due to physical distancing.
  • Water is safe for babies as water in most countries is chlorinated, which is suggested to mitigate the transfer of viruses.
  • Water is safe for birth providers wearing PPE, which conforms with local and national guidelines.
  • Equipment is safe to use for water immersion if good hygiene with proper cleaning is followed.

Senior New Zealand midwife and best-selling maternity author Kathy Fray – who is the founding director of the global thought-leaders on perinatal integrative medicine IIMHCO [Intl Integrative Maternity HealthCare Org] – also points out “additionally UK’s Oxford Brookes University have recently published academic opinion that concludes labouring in water is one of the safest ways to give birth during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic”.

Fray continues “their conclusion was that by virtue of being immersed during labour in a birthing pool, there is more space between the mother and others in the room, which by default protects the woman’s personal space by providing a natural barrier – plus COVID-19 is not a waterborne virus”. 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.”

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