“A woman in birth is at once her most powerful, and her most vulnerable.” Marcie Macari
There are some areas of maternity care which are so valuable, so game changing, that it is remarkable that they are not the default offering for women in labour. At our most vulnerable time we can be supported to be our most powerful. Labour and birth in water can transform childbirth, and at the same time it fulfils a vital requirement of our health service: to save money.
Jeremy Hunt continues to force the NHS to make “efficiency” savings, and the NHS has an obligation to provide the best care that it can. Given that waterbirth firmly ticks both of these boxes, it is essential that all trusts ensure that they are providing a sufficient number of birthing pools to be able to offer them to all women who wish to use water.
Tell me more about these cost savings
In summary, water labour and birth compared to land labour and birth reduces the number of interventions or complications that women experience. Some interventions and complications cost the NHS money immediately (such as caesareans, forceps, transfer to the hospital from an out of hospital birth, chemical pain relief) and some also create costs on an ongoing basis due to follow up care (eg caesareans, perineal damage, birth trauma).
Let’s back that up with some research. Looking at caesarean sections, an Italian study in 2014 found that the women in their study who birthed in water had a 94-99% spontaneous vaginal birth rate, in a country where the caesarean birth rate is 38%! A follow on evaluation of Birthplace 2011 showed a reduction in risk of caesarean birth by 20% for first time mothers. The same review also showed that the number of women who were transferred to hospital having planned an out of hospital birth was also significantly reduced for women who laboured in water.
A 2004 observational study over a 9 year period found that waterbirths reduced the risks of perineal tearing, episiotomies and reduces the mother’s blood loss. This leads to NHS cost reductions in follow up care for tears or cuts, and for treatment for anaemia – and leads to a reduction in women coping with new parenthood without being able to sit comfortably (something that we all need to do a lot of as we feed our newborns), and reduces the number of women coping with pathological exhaustion on top of normal postnatal tiredness.
This is just a very small summary of the evidence that is available, because there are hundreds of studies which show the benefits of waterbirth to women, and to the NHS, which we will continue to blog about over the coming months.
Let’s put this into practice!
Aquabirths came about because of my passion for supporting women in birth, and because to be able to ensure that women have access to a pool if she chooses to birth in a hospital or midwife led unit, trusts need to be able to afford the capital cost of installing them. The original investment will be repaid by saving just a couple of women from an unwanted caesarean, and the human cost of an unwanted caesarean is priceless. Aquabirths fitted pools are available from £2900 including plumbing components, and are discounted even further when 2 or more are ordered. They’re manufactured in one piece to make fitting as easy as possible, and Aquabirths will do the installation if required. The pools are easy to repair in the very unlikely situation that they’re damaged, due to their fibreglass construction rather than plastic, and they also come with an industry-best 10 year warranty.
Ongoing care is made easy and cheap by the fact that the baths are manufactured in one piece, making cleaning and hygiene control quick and effective. All plumbing components are standard parts, so they’re easy to replace if required, although this is very rarely needed, just like it’s almost never the case that you need to replace plumbing in your own home.
In a follow up post I’m going to talk some more about access to birth pools. At the moment, many trusts have a policy which means that many women are not eligible to use them unless they’re classed as “low risk” (a term which I should also cover at some point!). I’ll just leave this post with one final thought. “High risk” women are often denied access to a pool, but told to take a bath, and the same women are denied access to a pool, but instead offered heroin (diamorphine) in labour without being told what they’re being given. It’s time to take another look at labour and birth in water and the benefits of it to women, babies,
…and trust finances.
Aquabirths are running a special offer of a free birth couch (currently £795, normal price £950) with every Canberra, Venus or Heart-shaped Birthing Pool. Use code SB161102 when ordering the Pool.