Midwives safely select for water birth

Midwives are choosing the appropriate women to labour and birth in water, Western Australian research shows.

The Curtin University and King Edward Memorial Hospital research found 80% of WA women who planned to give birth in water experienced a normal, uncomplicated vaginal birth.

A total of 502 women at WA’s sole tertiary public maternity hospital, King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) were surveyed between July 2015 and June 2016. Of the 303 women who went on to labour in water, 59% birthed in water and 41% did not.

Lead author Dr Lucy Lewis, who has a joint appointment at Curtin’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine and KEMH, said not all women who set out to labour and/or birth in water achieved their aim.

“The main reason women who used water for their labour and did not end up having a water birth was the fact they experienced an obstetric complication. This suggests the midwives at KEMH are following water birth guidelines by responding appropriately in the event a complication arises during labour.”

The research, published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that women who were identified and approved to undertake labour in water were less likely to be transferred to KEMH’s main birth suite.

“This suggested the labour had fewer or no complications, and they were more likely to have a normal or spontaneous water birth,” Dr Lewis said.

The finding was supported by the low caesarean rate among the cohort of women surveyed.

“Given the international concern surrounding the rising caesarean birth rate, our most encouraging finding relates to the small number of women who experienced caesarean birth – just 6%,” Dr Lewis said.

The study recommended the collection of water birthing data across Australia to help inform women; and establishment of a national body to collect and publish water birth data.

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