Tuesday 11 December 2018

Water births put on hold after death

Water births have been suspended in maternity hospitals and units following the death of a baby boy who was delivered in a birthing pool.

An inquest heard last week how baby Harry Eccles, from Virginia, Co Cavan, died three days after breathing in water during his birth in a pool at Cavan General Hospital in February 2006.

A spokesperson for Cavan and Drogheda maternity units said the birthing pool service was suspended for births following the incident and was now only available for pain relief.

Cork University Maternity Hospital, which also has a birthing pool, said it would not be using it for births until after the outcome of a national review on water births. Mothers who want a water birth have to hire a birthing pool and a homebirth midwife for use in their own homes.

Niamh Healy, of the Irish Childbirth Trust, said birthing pools could provide great relief during labour and decrease the pain of contractions.

Birthing pools reduce the need for a woman to take drugs for pain relief and allow more empowerment during the birth.

An independent review of water births at Cavan and Drogheda hospitals, which was commissioned after the baby's death in 2006, made 19 recommendations.

It called for extra support for midwives if water births resumed at the hospitals.


There are no national standards for water births here and hospitals have relied on those from the UK.

Cavan and Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda led the way by introducing the water birth option for mothers in 2004. Fifty babies had been born safely in the birthing pools in the two hospitals before the tragedy.

The Rotunda hospital in Dublin and University College Hospital in Galway also have birthing pools, but they are used only for relief during labour.

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