Underwater birth and neonatal respiratory distress

Zainab Kassim, clinical research fellow in neonatology1, Maria Sellars, consultant in radiology2, Anne Greenough, professor of neonatology and clinical respiratory physiology

1 Department of Child Health, Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine, King’s College Hospital, London SE5 9RS, 2 Department of Radiology, King’s College Hospital, London


In 1992 the House of Commons Select Health Committee’s report on maternity services recommended that all hospitals should provide women with the “option of a birthing pool where this is practicable.

“1 A subsequent surveillance study of all NHS maternity units between 1994 and 1996 found that 0.6% of all deliveries in England and Wales occurred in water.2

Rawal and colleagues have suggested that water births have become popular among mothers and midwives because the buoyancy and warmth of the water promotes natural labour while providing a non-invasive safe and effective form of pain management.3

Practitioners and parents should remember, however, that birthing pools pose potential risks for the baby. We report on a newborn baby who developed respiratory distress due to aspiration after an underwater birth.

Case Report

A full term male infant weighing 3150 g was born in the birthing pool of the labour ward of our hospital. His mother was a 34 year old, healthy primigravida who had had an uneventful pregnancy.

She had gone into spontaneous labour at 40 weeks’ gestation and had had no maternal fever during labour; at delivery the membranes had been ruptured for less than 18 hours. The baby was born underwater.

He required no resuscitation but, when reviewed at one hour, was grunting. As the grunting persisted, he was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit at 3 hours of age. He had no fever but was tachypnoeic and had intercostal recession and nasal flaring.

He needed supplementary oxygen to maintain his oxygen saturation level at 92%; his need for supplementary oxygen persisted for nine hours. He was screened for infection and started on antibiotics (benzylpenicillin and gentamicin).

In view of his respiratory distress, which persisted for 48 hours, he was designated “nil by mouth” and fluid was administered intravenously until he had recovered. Chest radiography soon after admission showed widespread changes consistent with aspiration of the birthing pool water (figure).

Further radiography, on day 3, showed resolution of the abnormalities, and the infection screen was negative. The infant made a full recovery and, when seen as an outpatient at age 3 months, was free of symptoms.


Some researchers have suggested that “babies can only drown when submerged, only if they are already severely compromised and literally at their `last gasp,’ as water simulates vagal inspiration receptors causing glottic closure.”4

In lambs, however, inhibitory mechanisms that prevent breathing until the lamb is in contact with cold air can be overridden by sustained hypoxia.5

Likewise, in a birthing pool, some babies with unrecognised hypoxia may gasp underwater. Indeed, the 1994 to 1996 survey cited two reports of water aspiration,2 and similar cases have been documented in the literature.6-8

Our case report emphasises the adverse effects of aspiration of water in birthing pools. Although such events seem uncommon, this may be the result of under-reporting.

Respiratory distress immediately after birth is common and has various aetiologies. Thus, unless a careful history is taken, the cause the respiratory distress may be misdiagnosed.9

We are confident that the case we report was due to aspiration of water as the infant developed symptoms soon after birth, with resolution by 48 hours.

In addition, there were no risk factors for infection or indeed any bacterial infection identified. Infection after water birth has been described.10-12

The baby in our case report was delivered after spontaneous labour at term, making transient tachypnoea of the newborn unlikely; indeed, the chest radiograph was consistent not with that diagnosis but with aspiration.

A systemic review of randomised trials has shown that immersion during labour is associated with significant reductions in the use of epidural, spinal, or paracervical analgesia and in women’s reports of pain, but highlighted there were insufficient data to determine the outcome from randomised trials of birth in water for women or their infants.13

In addition to water aspiration and subsequent pulmonary oedema,8 however, other adverse neonatal outcomes after water birth have been reported; these include water intoxication, hyponatraemia, hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, cord rupture with neonatal haemorrhage, and pneumonia.12 14

Women who have water births are usually considered to be “low risk,” and so they and their infants should have an excellent prognosis. Our case report and review of the literature confirm that water birth has risks for the newborn.

Practitioners and parents need to be aware of these potential risks so that mothers can make a fully informed decision about place of delivery.

Water birth can be associated with adverse effects in the newborn

Contributors: ZKand AG collected the clinical data, and MS col- lected the radiographic data. All authors contributed to writing the paper, and AG is the guarantor.

Funding: No special funding. Competing interests: None declared.


      1. House of Commons Health Select Committee. Maternity services. Second report. London: HMSO, 1992.
      2. Ruth E, Gilbert P, Tookey A. Prenatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey. BMJ 1999;319: 483- 7.
      3. Rawal J, Shah A, Stirk F, Mehtar S. Water birth and infection in babies. BMJ 1994;309: 511-2.
      4. Kitzinger S. Sheila Kitzinger’s letter from Europe: the waterbirth debate up-to- date. Birth 2000;27: 214-6.
      5. Johnson P. To breathe or not to breathe. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1996; 103: 202- 3.
      6. Rosser J. Is water birth safe? The facts behind the controversy. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 1994;4: 4-6.
      7. Barry CN. Water births. Could saline in the pool reduce the potential hazards? BMJ 1995;310: 1602.
      8. Nguyen S, Kuschel C, Teele R, Spooner C. Water birth—a near-drowning experience. Pediatrics 2002;110: 411-3.
      9. Bowden K, Kessler D, Pinette M, Wilson E. Underwater birth: missing the evidence or missing the point? Pediatrics 2003;112: 972-3.
      10. Rawal J, Shah A, Stirk F, Mehtar S. Water birth and infection in babies. BMJ 1994;309: 511.
      11. Nagai T, Sobajima H, Iwasa M, Tsuzuki T, Kura F, Amemura-Maekawa J, et al. Neonatal sudden death due to Legionella pneumonia associated with water birth in a domestic spa bath. J Clin Microbiol 2003:41: 2227-9.
      12. Pinette MG, Wax J, Wilson E. The risks of underwater birth. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2004;190: 1211-5.
      13. Cluett ER, Nikodem VC, McCandilish RE, Burns EE. Immersion in water in pregnancy, labour and birth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2005;(1)
      14. Schroeter K. Water births: a naked emperor. Pediatrics 2004;114: 855-8.

(Accepted 16 March 2005)

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Water birth, more than a trendy alternative: a prospective, observational study

Zanetti-Dällenbach, Rosanna1; Lapaire, Olav; Maertens, Anne; Holzgreve, Wolfgang; Hösli, Irene (2006) Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Volume 274, Number 6, October 2006 , pp. 355-365(11)


To prospectively assess the effect of water birth on maternal and fetal outcomes in a selected low-risk collective of a tertiary obstetrical unit.

In this prospective observational study, 513 patients of a low-risk collective, who requested a water birth, were studied during the years 1998-2002. Primary outcome measurements included the maternal and fetal parameters.

Secondary outcome measurements comprised data on the incidence of water births in an interested, low- risk population in an academic hospital.

All groups were similar in terms of demographic and obstetric data. Significant differences were observed in maternal outcome parameters, which included the use of analgesia/anesthesia during labor, the duration of first and second stages of labor, perineal tears and episiotomy rate.

No differences were seen in all observed fetal outcome parameters including APGAR scores, arterial and venous pH, admission rate to neonatal intensive care unit and infection rate.

Water birth is a valuable and promising alternative to traditional delivery methods. The maternal and fetal outcomes were similar to traditional land births. However, currently there still exist some deficits in the scientific evaluation of its safety.

Therefore, the selection of a low-risk collective is essential to minimize the risks with the addition of strictly maintained guidelines and continuous intrapartum observation and fetal monitoring.

Based on our results and the literature, water births are justifiable when certain criteria are met and risk factors are excluded.


Characteristics, interventions, and outcomes of women who used a birthing pool

Ethel E. Burns, RM, MSc, Mary G. Boulton, PhD, Elizabeth Cluett, RM, PhD,
Victoria R. Cornelius, PhD, and Lesley A. Smith, PhD 2012

Background: Birthing pools are integrated into maternity care in the United
Kingdom and are a popular care option for women in midwifery-led units and at home.

The objective of this study was to describe and compare maternal characteristics, intrapartum events, interventions, and maternal and neonatal outcomes by planned place of birth for women who used a birthing pool.


A total of 8,924 women at low risk of childbirth complications were recruited from care settings in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Descriptive analysis was performed. Results: Overall, 7,915 (88.9%) women had a
spontaneous birth (5,192, 58.3% water births), of whom 4,953 (55.5%) were nulliparas.

Fewer nulliparas whose planned place of birth was the community (freestanding midwifery unit or home) had labor augmentation by artificial membrane rupture (149, 11.3% [95% CI:9.6–13.1]), compared with an alongside midwifery unit (271, 22.7% [95% CI: 20.3–25.2]), or obstetric unit (639, 26.3% [95% CI: 24.5–28.1]). Results were similar for epidural analgesia and episiotomy.

More community nulliparas had spontaneous birth (1,172, 88.9% [95% CI: 87.1–90.6]), compared with birth in an alongside midwifery unit (942, 79% [95% CI: 76.6–81.3]) and obstetric unit (1,923, 79.2% [95% CI: 77.5–80.8]); and fewer required hospital transfer (265, 20% [95% CI: 17–22.2]) compared with those in an alongside midwifery unit (370, 31% [95% CI: 28.3–33.7]).

Results for multiparas and newborns were similar across care settings. Twenty babies had an umbilical cord snap, 18 (90%) of which occurred during water birth. Conclusions: Birthing pool use was associated with a high frequency of spontaneous birth, particularly among nulliparas.

Findings revealed differences in midwifery practice between obstetric units, alongside midwifery units, and the community, which may affect outcomes, particularly for nulliparas.

No evidence was found for a difference across care settings in interventions or outcomes in multiparas or in outcomes for newborns.

During water birth, it is important to prevent undue traction on the cord as the baby is guided to the surface. (BIRTH 39:3 September 2012)

The article contains useful studies of water births in the UK by the NHS.

Please click here to read the full article




Randomised controlled trial of labouring in water compared with standard of augmentation for management of dystocia in first stage of labour

Elizabeth R Cluett, lecturer in midwifery1, Ruth M Pickering, senior lecturer in medical statistics2, Kathryn Getliffe, professor of nursing1, Nigel James St George Saunders, medical director3


To evaluate the impact of labouring in water during first stage of labour on rates of epidural analgesia and operative delivery in nulliparous women with dystocia.


Randomised controlled trial.


University teaching hospital in southern England.


99 nulliparous women with dystocia (cervical dilation rate < 1 cm/hour in active labour) at low risk of complications.


Immersion in water in birth pool or standard augmentation for dystocia (amniotomy and intravenous oxytocin).

Main outcome measures

Primary: epidural analgesia and operative delivery rates. Secondary: augmentation rates with amniotomy and oxytocin, length of labour, maternal and neonatal morbidity including infections, maternal pain score, and maternal satisfaction with care.


Women randomised to immersion in water had a lower rate of epidural analgesia than women allocated to augmentation (47% v 66%, relative risk 0.71 (95% confidence interval 0.49 to 1.01), number needed to treat for benefit (NNT) 5).

They showed no difference in rates of operative delivery (49% v 50%, 0.98 (0.65 to 1.47), NNT 98), but significantly fewer received augmentation (71% v 96%, 0.74 (0.59 to 0.88), NNT 4) or any form of obstetric intervention (amniotomy, oxytocin, epidural, or operative delivery) (80% v 98%, 0.81 (0.67 to 0.92), NNT 5).

More neonates of women in the water group were admitted to the neonatal unit (6 v 0, P = 0.013), but there was no difference in Apgar score, infection rates, or umbilical cord pH.

Conclusions Labouring in water under midwifery care may be an option for slow progress in labour, reducing the need for obstetric intervention, and offering an alternative pain management strategy.


Slower than expected progress in the first stage of labour (dystocia) occurs in 20% of nulliparous women in labour and accounts for 20% of caesarean sections and 40% of instrumental deliveries, and results in longer hospitalisation.1 For women at low risk of complications, it marks the transition from midwifery to obstetric management.

Since proponents of active management first claimed the benefits of shorter labour and lower rates of caesarean section,2 3 debate has continued over conservative versus aggressive management and the medicalisation of birth.

Management strategies for dystocia vary from immediate augmentation4 5 to delayed intervention up to four hours after diagnosis.6-8 Comparison between strategies is difficult as specific features often differ; for example, one-to-one care is recognised to have beneficial effect on labour outcomes.9

Our current trial was based on two precepts. Firstly, that incomplete understanding of labour may lead to unnecessarily early intervention. Secondly, that anxiety and pain may trigger a stress response,10 leading to reduced uterine activity and dystocia.11

Labouring in water may ameliorate this stress response by aiding relaxation and pain relief. Few trials have evaluated labouring in water, perhaps because of the difficulty in randomising women who may have strong preferences.12

A Cochrane review concluded that, for women at low risk of complications, there was no clear evidence of advantage or disadvantage in using a pool in labour but further research was needed.13 Two national surveys concluded that labour and birth in water had no effect on perinatal mortality.14 15

In preparation for the trial reported here, we conducted a feasibility study comparing labour in water with augmentation and conservative management for women with dystocia,16 but conservative management was considered unacceptable by women and clinicians. Our current trial therefore compares labour in water with augmentation in nulliparous women with dystocia.

Participants and methods


Our randomised controlled trial compared immersion in water during the first stage of labour after diagnosis of dystocia with augmentation, the standard management for dystocia. We conducted the trial between January 1999 and December 2000 in a large university teaching hospital in southern England with about 4500 births a year.

Study population

Nulliparous women with a diagnosis of dystocia (cervical dilation of < 1 cm/hour)—who at that time would routinely have been advised to have their labour augmented by amniotomy or oxytocin infusion, or both—were eligible for the trial if they were able to give informed consent, had received information about the trial during their pregnancy (a leaflet describing the trial was distributed to all nulliparous women antenatally), were in spontaneous, active labour, and were at low risk of complications (full term, singleton pregnancies, fetus in cephalic presentation, and no medical, obstetric, or psychiatric problems).


After participating women were randomised, each management option consisted of a package of care provided by midwives, including one-to-one care. Labour progress was assessed by vaginal examinations every four hours and documented on a standard partogram. All women could request any form of analgesia available at any time.

Augmentation—Women in the augmentation group received the standard management for dystocia. Amniotomy was performed if the membranes were intact, and a midwife managed the labour for the next two hours unless otherwise clinically indicated.

If the membranes were already ruptured or progress was not satisfactory during the two hours after amniotomy, intravenous oxytocin was given, starting at 4 mU/min and doubled every 30 minutes, up to a maximum of 64 mU/min, until regular contractions (3-4 every 10 minutes) occurred. Continuous fetal monitoring was carried out.

Labour in water—Women allocated to labour in water used a permanent, acrylic, oval waterbirth pool measuring 154 cm by 184 cm by 77 cm and filled with still tap water without additives so that immersion was to above the breasts when sitting. Water temperature was maintained at 36.0-37.0°C.

The maximum stay in the pool before reassessment by vaginal examination was four hours. If labour progress was satisfactory (cervicaldilation 1cm/hour),subsequent care could continue in the pool if the woman wished, otherwise augmentation was advised.

Sample size

We based our estimate of the potential effect size on an audit of 50 nulliparous women with dystocia in May-July 1997, who would have met the trial inclusion criteria.

We concluded that 220 women would be required to detect an absolute reduction of 25% in the rate of epidural analgesia (from 60% to 35%) and an absolute reduction of 20% in the operative delivery rate (from 40% to 20%) with 90% power in 5% two sided tests.

The local incidence of dystocia in nulliparous women meeting our eligibility criteria was about five a week (260 a year).

In our pilot study we obtained a consent rate of 71%,16 but we anticipated a lower rate when all midwives undertook recruitment, and therefore planned a recruitment period of two years.

Randomisation and recruitment

We used a computer generated randomisation schedule in balanced blocks of 20. Concealment was ensured by an independent person putting allocation details in sequentially numbered, opaque, sealed envelopes.

Ten consecutively numbered envelopes were stored in the labour ward at any one time and audited daily to ensure they were intact.

After dystocia was diagnosed, a midwife who had received training in patient recruitment checked that the woman in question had received the information leaflet about the trial, assessed her eligibility for the study, and, if suitable, sought her informed consent.

When a woman agreed to participate the midwife opened the next trial envelope to allocate the woman to a treatment arm and to give her a unique trial number. Participation in the trial was recorded in the woman’s routine maternity records.

Outcome measures

Primary outcome measures were epidural analgesia and operative delivery (ventouse, forceps, or caesarean section).

Secondary measures included augmentation rates (receiving amniotomy or oxytocin, or both) and maternal or neonatal morbidity (any infection, admission to the neonatal unit, or condition that required medical care up to the 10th postpartum day).

Obstetric data were recorded in the maternity records by practitioners and abstracted after discharge from maternity care.

It was not possible to conceal allocation from clinical practitioners or at the time of data abstraction as care provided was clearly documented. However, as data were objective in nature and recorded contemporaneously observer bias was minimised.

We conducted a postpartum structured interview in the maternity unit to assess retrospectively the women’s experience of pain at 30 minutes after the intervention started and change in pain over the same time period (measured with visual analogue scales of 0 to 100 mm for pain experience and -50 mm to +50 mm for change in pain).

We did not assess pain concurrently because of the disruption to the women and midwives. We also assessed women’s satisfaction overall and in relation to privacy and freedom of movement (asked as separate questions) using four point Likert scales.

We chose to use a structured interview format to reduce potential bias because it was not possible to keep the interviewer blinded to women’s treatments as their comments made the allocation apparent.

Statistical analysis

We analysed results on an intention to treat basis. We compared rates of epidural analgesia and operative delivery between groups using Pearson’s 2 tests and presented results as relative risks with 95% confidence intervals. When numbers were small we calculated exact P values and confidence intervals in StatXact-5.

We produced numbers needed to treat to produce benefit in one woman and calculated confidence intervals as the inverse of the confidence interval about the absolute risk difference.

Confidence intervals around the numbers needed to treat for non-significant differences include the numbers needed to treat to produce harm,17 showing that results are not inconsistent with the intervention producing worse outcome.

We used Mann-Whitney tests to compare length of labour and women’s pain and satisfaction scores, and presented confidence intervals for differences in means.

A confidential summary of the safety data was prepared after 50 women had been randomised, and assessed by an obstetric consultant independent of the trial, who recommended that recruitment continue.



Of 3825 nulliparous women who delivered in the unit during the two years of recruitment, 741 were defined as being at low risk of complications at the time of the diagnosis of dystocia (see figure). Consent was sought from 176 eligible women, of whom 99 (56%) agreed to participate, and were randomised.

The two groups of women showed no important differences in baseline characteristics (table 1). There was good adherence to the trial protocol, with 48 of the 49 women allocated to labour in water using the pool, and 48 of the 50 women allocated to standard care receiving augmentation.

The woman who declined to enter the water requested an amniotomy. Two women in the augmentation group progressed before augmentation could be started.

Primary outcomes

Twenty three women (47%) allocated to labour in water received epidural analgesia after randomisation compared with 33 (66%) in the augmentation group (relative risk 0.71 (95% confidence interval 0.49 to 1.01), number needed to treat 5) (table 2).

The numbers of operative deliveries (caesarean sections and ventouse and forceps deliveries) were similar in both arms of the trial, with 24 (49%) women allocated to labour in water receiving an operative delivery compared with 25 (50%) women allocated to augmentation (relative risk 0.98 (0.65 to 1.47), number needed to treat 98).

Secondary outcomes

Twenty five of the 27 women in the water labour arm who had made slow progress at the assessment four hours after recruitment received augmentation.

A further three women progressed slowly subsequently and also received augmentation. Seven women who progressed satisfactorily received an amniotomy for other indications.

The number of women who received augmentation (amniotomy or oxytocin) in the water labour arm was significantly lower than that in the standard care arm (35 (71%) v 48 (96%), relative risk 0.74 (0.59 to 0.88), number needed to treat 4) (table 2).

The mean duration of the first stage of labour was similar in the two groups, 10.47 hours in the water labour group and 10.26 hours in the augmentation group (table 3).

Women allocated to labour in water reported significantly lower mean pain scores at 30 minutes after start of the allocated management (49 mm v 64 mm) and a reduction in mean pain (-26 mm) compared with an increase for women receiving augmentation (12 mm).

Women allocated to labour in water were more likely to report satisfaction with freedom of movement (91% v 63%) and with experience of privacy (96% v 81%), but there was no difference between groups in overall satisfaction (table 3).

Maternal and neonatal wellbeing

Maternal and neonatal infection rates were similar in the two groups (table 4), as was neonatal condition at birth indicated by Apgar score and umbilical cord pH. Six neonates born to women in the water labour group were admitted to the neonatal unit compared with none in the augmentation group (P = 0.013).

The reasons for admission were: cardiac defects (1), hypothermia (2), fever (1), suspected infection on day 2 (1), and poor feeding on day 3 (1). There was a mean delay of 6 hours (range 2-10 hours) between women leaving the pool and birth.

With the exception of the infant with cardiac defects, all these neonates, who had required an operative delivery, were reunited with their mothers within 48 hours and experienced no subsequent problems.


This is the first trial to evaluate the impact of labouring in water for nulliparous women with dystocia. Compared with women given standard augmentation, the women labouring in water had no difference in operative delivery rates and tended to receive less epidural analgesia.

Before this trial it had been suggested that as all the women would have dystocia, augmentation would be inevitable, along with longer labour, and/or assistance in the second stage of labour.

However, almost 30% of women in the water arm did not receive augmentation and 20% received no obstetric intervention, without evidence of longer labour, both of these rates being significantly different from the augmentation arm. In addition, women retrospectively reported less pain and increased satisfaction.

Our findings suggest that delaying augmentation in association with a supportive environment (water immersion) is acceptable to women with dystocia and may reduce the need for epidural analgesia without increasing labour length or operative deliveries.

This is important, as it has been suggested that women prefer earlier intervention.7

Also a management approach that reduces rates of augmentation and associated obstetric intervention may contribute positively to maternal physiological and psychological health: oxytocin infusion is known to increase the risk of uterine hyperstimulation and fetal hypoxia, and obstetric interventions are associated with lower maternal satisfaction.18

A reduced need for epidural analgesia and augmentation may enable staff and other resources to be used differently—for example, allowing more women to receive one-to-one care in labour.

Maternal and neonatal wellbeing

The trial was not large enough to detect differences in maternal and fetal morbidity. However, indicators of wellbeing were similar in the two groups, with the exception of increased admission to the neonatal unit after labour in water.

Possible reasons for this include the water immersion itself, the delay in intervention of up to four hours (even though this did not affect overall labour length), extra caution by practitioners when women were known to have laboured in water, or chance factors with no direct relation to the trial.

No other studies of labour in water have reported such an association: instead, they either did not provide data on admissions to neonatal units19 20 or reported only one admission21 or similar admission rates in both trial arms.22

Eckert et al reported an increased incidence of initial resuscitation measures with water immersion,22 but we found no difference in Apgar scores and blood gas analysis at birth.

Indeed, three of the admissions to the neonatal unit were between nine and 48 hours after delivery, while the three admissions immediately after birth were associated with temperature regulation.

Comparative studies of labour in water found no increase in admissions to neonatal units or other markers of neonatal distress.23-25 It is clearly important to ensure ongoing audit of neonatal outcomes for women who labour in water.

Limitations of study

Only 99 of the intended 220 women were recruited for a variety of reasons. In common with other trials18 epidural analgesia was the main reason why nulliparous women with dystocia were ineligible for our study (28%).

Local rates of epidural analgesia and their likely impact on recruitment should feature as part of the planning of any future trials involving labour management.

In our busy maternity unit recruitment was not a priority, and some eligible women were not invited to participate in our study. The main reason eligible women chose not to enter the trial was a preference for one or other form of care (40%).

This is a recognised problem, and consideration is needed on how this may affect the generalisability of our findings and ways to overcome recruitment problems.

Recruitment became more difficult towards the end of the trial because of the adoption of a more conservative approach to managing dystocia in the unit and the introduction of the modified World Health Organization partogram,6 which incorporates a delay between the identification of slow progress and augmentation.

During this delay midwives could facilitate ongoing conservative management; as a consequence, they were less willing to recruit women to the trial, knowing that half of the women would immediately receive augmentation.

Thus, the trial was not continued past the planned two years. The low recruitment rate contributed to the outcomes achieved, such as the lack of statistical significance in relation to the difference in rates of epidural analgesia.

    • What is already known on this topic

For women in normal labour, immersion in water is associated with less need for analgesia and increased satisfaction

Augmentation of labour, in particular oxytocin administration, is associated with hyperstimulation and decreased maternal satisfaction

    • What this study adds

For nulliparous women with dystocia (cervical dilation < 1 cm/hour), immersion in water for up to four hours seemed to reduce need for augmentation of labour, reduce pain, and increase satisfaction, without increasing overall length of labour or operative delivery rate

Water immersion may be an alternative option to early augmentation of labour

We thank the women who participated in the trial; the midwives and obstetric and support staff of the unit where the trial was conducted; research advisory group members Maggie Elliot and Debbie Gould; and Rona McCandlish for her support in preparing this paper.
Contributors: ERC was principal investigator and research midwife and was responsible for trial design and coordination, and data collection and analysis, supported by RMP and KG as research supervisors. NJS contributed to the initial idea and enabled the trial in the clinical setting.

All authors helped to write the paper. ERC acts as guarantor for the paper.
Funding: Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Competing interest: None declared.
Ethical approval: Approval was given by the local research ethics committee.


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