Health & Wellbeing

Thursday 24 July 2014

Alert as baby dies after water birth

Eilish O'Regan

Published 07/07/2014|02:30

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A 3D rendering of legionella bacteria.

IRELAND'S disease watchdog has repeated an alert issued in the UK about certain kinds of birthing pools following a single case of serious lung infection in a baby.

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The baby who was born in the pool caught Legionnaires disease, a lung infection caused by legionella bacteria.

It is usually caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. It is not contagious and cannot be spread directly from person to person.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre of Ireland said its counteparts in the UK have temporarily advised against the home use of birthing pools with built-in heaters and recirculation pumps, potentially filled up to two weeks in advance of the birth.

Samples taken from the heated birthing pool used are reported to have confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria, which cause Legionnaires' disease.

Tests are ongoing to establish if it is the same strain which infected the baby. This is the first reported case of Legionnaires disease linked to a birthing pool in England, although there have been two cases reported internationally some years ago.

NHS England has issued a Patient Safety Alert rapidly notifying the healthcare system, and specifically midwives, to the possible risks associated with the use of these heated birthing pools at home.

The alert recommends that heated birthing pools, filled in advance of labour and where the temperature is maintained by use of a heater and pump, are not used for labour or birth.

The majority of birthing pools used at home are filled from domestic hot water systems at the time of labour – these birthing pools do not pose the same risk and are excluded from this alert. There are no concerns about these types of pools as long as pumps are used solely to empty the pool and not for recirculation of warm water.

They do not have concerns about purchased or hired pools that are filled from domestic hot water supplies at the onset of labour, provided that any pumps are used solely for pool emptying.

Home birthing pools filled during labour come with disposable liners and are only in place for a relatively short time period, reducing opportunity for bacterial growth.

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