Doctors' long held view that birth in water was dangerous for the baby has taken a knock in a new British study.
For two years, researchers from the Institute of Child Health in London collected data on all babies who died perinatally or were admitted for special care within 48 hours of birth after delivery in water or after labour in water followed by a conventional delivery.
They also conducted a postal survey of babies delivered in water.
Among the 4,032 deliveries, the perinatal mortality rate was 1.2 per 1000. A further 8.4 per 1000 were admitted to hospital special care. Although there were two admissions in hospital for water aspiration and five cases of snapped umbilical cord, there were no deaths direclty attributable to delivery in water.
These figures compare very favourably with regional data for low risk full term vaginal deliveries.
With a relative risk for perinatal mortality with delivery in water of 0.9 per cent, delivery in water was comparable with the low rate of illness and perinatal mortality seen in low risk women who give birth to their babies out of water (BMJ, 1999; 319: 483-7).