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Baby deaths spark debate on underwater births.

A nationwide debate on the safety of underwater pools erupted in Britain after the death in October, 1993 of a baby in Sweden whose mother gave birth under water. Health officials in Britain reported that three infants have died in the last two years after deliveries in birthing pools. There is no proof in any of the cases that the pool was responsible for the deaths.

The use of birthing pools is becoming an increasingly popular method in Britain because the pools are known to ease muscle tension and relieve pain. Although no statistics are available on the popularity of the method, it is estimated that more than 20 hospitals in southeast England are equipped with the pools.

At a hospital in Bristol, where about 260 women have used the pool since it was installed in 1991, one infant died after the 29-year-old mother spent 2-1/2 hours in the pool during labor. Another infant suffered possible brain damage after the 30-year-old mother had Spent 4-1/2 hours in the pool, also during labor. Both women were considered low-risk, and no fetal problems were expected.

Sylvia Rosevear, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital, wrote in the medical journal Lancet that water temperature may be a factor. The hospital now advises that the water be between 93 degrees and 95 degrees in the first stage of labor and about 98.6 degrees for delivery.

Two other infants died at other hospitals this year after their mothers had spent some time in the pool. The hospitals emphasize that no causal relationship has been established.

The Swedish infant was delivered at home by midwives and brought into the hospital within 30 minutes. The baby was having severe breathing problems at the time of birth, which were complicated by the underwater delivery. An investigation has shown that the baby's lungs were filled with water from the pool, and had the child been born in the air, doctors may have been able to resuscitate it.

Joan McDowall, a senior officer at the Royal College of Midwives, which represents 85% of practicing midwives in Britain, says women should not be discouraged from using the technique. "People definitely are being too alarmist," she says. "Our position is it is still a safe alternative."
COPYRIGHT 1994 Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Special Delivery
Date:Mar 22, 1994
Words:378
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