THE University Maternity Hospital in Limerick is one step closer to providing water births as it plans to introduce a water immersion service for labour by the end of May.
Although it will not be offering water births, the new immersion service will be offered for the first time in Limerick as part of a range of labour supports in the home-birthing room to facilitate natural labour.
Although UMHL has said water birthing will not take place at the hospital yet, the facilities provided will bring the hospital closer to providing that service in the future.
Currently just one hospital in the country offers a water birthing option – the Coombe in Dublin. This is available to pregnant women presenting between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy with no medical, surgical or obstetrical risk factors or complications.
At present, the pool at the Coombe is reserved for women who consent to participate in the hospital’s research study, ‘Use of water immersion during labour and birth – an organisational change project and prospective preference cohort study’.
The water immersion service will commence at UMHL by the end of May and will be available for normal-risk women in the newly-refurbished home birthing room.
Dr Mark Skehan, consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist, said the team at UMHL was looking forward to opening the new labour room to women.
“Water immersion and hydrotherapy can be quite effective for pain relief and a larger element of all of this will be using the room for more natural processes and trying to get more natural birth. We have in addition to the bath, an adjoining shower room, a birthing cube, and birthing balls. This is something of a prototype for us and if it is successful and demand increases, we hope to do the same thing in another labour room,” he said.
Water births were suspended in 2006 following an infant death after a birthing-pool delivery at Cavan General Hospital.
The HSE North Eastern Area outlined at the time that as the baby was born using the birthing-pool facility in the midwifery-led unit, “a decision has been taken to suspend the use of the birthing pools for births. However, the use of these pools as a method of pain relief to support women in labour will continue”.
Sandra O’Connor, clinical midwifery manager 3, labour ward/theatre, said the main driver behind the refurbishment of the room was requests from women and the publication ofsaid the main driver behind the refurbishment of the room was requests from women and the publication of The National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026. The project has had ongoing support from UL Hospitals chief executive Prof Colette Cowan.
Eileen Ronan, acting director of midwifery said: “The National Maternity Strategy identifies three care pathways in its model of care, based on the risk profile of women. The supported care pathway is intended for normal-risk women, with midwives leading and providing care within a multidisciplinary framework.”
She said the first priority was always safe care. “Therefore we have criteria to facilitate the use of the pool.”
An information leaflet is being developed for women, and staff training is progressing.
“There is already significant interest from women in the Mid-West for the new service. The pool is only one element of the new space for holistic care aimed at supporting normal birth. The bed does not dominate the room in anyway. Women can move from the floor to leaning against the bed, to the shower to using the ball,” added Ms Ronan.
There will be an information session on the service entitled, “Water Immersion for Labour” as part of the public lecture series, and this will be held at the CERC building at University Hospital Limerick on Tuesday, April 17, from 6pm.
By Carol Byrne