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21st Nov 2020

HSE are no longer facilitating home water births after ‘small number of incidents’

water births Ireland

Giving birth in water is said to have many benefits for the birthing mother.

It can reduce pain, aid in relaxation and even decrease the change of an epidural being needed.

However, the HSE has now announced it will no longer facilitate home water births which were previously offered through the National Home Birth service.

The home birth service is run by self-employed community midwives who have an agreement with the HSE.

The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services in Ireland (AIMS) is calling for the service to be reinstated immediately, claiming a water birth has many benefits.

“Research has found water birth can result in less pain, less chance of an epidural, shorter first stage of labour and less use of syntocinon,” AIMS said in a statement.

“The rationale for the move appears to be an adverse incident in September. AIMS would like to empathise with those affected by this adverse incident.

“Adverse incidents happen in all maternity care settings, including hospitals. AIMS understands the normal response to adverse incidents in general in maternity care settings is not to immediately pull services – unless there is ample evidence to show that service is unsafe.”

AIMS said usually, depending on the nature of the incident, services remain in situ while a review takes place.

It said this procedure happened with CTG monitoring in the aftermath of the 2017 review of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

“We cannot understand why the HSE has treated water birth in a completely different way to the many adverse incidents of the past.

“Furthermore, AIMS believes this strategy will result in more medicalised interventions such as the routine use of syntocinon, the routine use of episiotomies, or coached pushing and a poorer maternity experience overall.”

AIMS Chair Krysia Lynch added that the available international evidence indicates that any ban on water birth is not evidence-based.

Here is what the HSE had to say about the ban on home water births:

“Following a small number of incidents in the HSE National Homebirth Service, the HSE in the interest of health and safety of women and babies, has temporarily paused facilitating planned water births in the home birth service.

“What this means is that during your labour a woman can immerse in water but will have to leave the water for the birth of your baby.

“We appreciate that this may be disappointing for those who had planned on having a water birth at home.”

The HSE said it is committed to providing safe and effective care during pregnancy and birth, and it is for this reason that it made this decision “while the reviews are undertaken.”