New research findings on factors influencing birth pool use
Findings of a Cardiff University study on birth pool use have recently been published in the journal of Midwifery. This work is part of a larger piece of research — the POOL study — which is investigating the safety of waterbirth for mothers and babies.
UK guidelines recommend that water immersion should be offered as pain relief to women with uncomplicated labours. However, less than a fifth of women report using a pool or a bath during labour. This research study aimed to find out why, by conducting online discussion groups with women and midwives, and telephone interviews with medical staff.
Healthwise Wales helped the researchers recruit people to the study by sending out an invitation email. 85 women signed up to a discussion group and contributed their experiences to the research.
The study concluded that maternity unit guidelines could limit access to birth pools and were not always based on research evidence. There was a shortage of pools in some units, meaning that midwives were not always experienced or confident in supporting women to use a pool. The attitudes of midwives and medical staff towards pool use were a key influence on whether women used a pool during labour.
The recommendations were that maternity units should increase the availability of pools, promote awareness of the benefits of pool use to medical staff, and ensure guidelines are based on research evidence.
Dr Sarah Milosevic, Research Associate at the Centre for Trials Research, Cardiff University