Understanding the Risks of Water Birth
For nine months, expectant parents dream of the life-changing moment their child will enter the world. They spend that time learning and preparing to give their child the best start, and the best life possible. Some parents conclude, often relying on the advice of care providers, that a water birth would be best for them and their baby. The popularity of this birth trend has been helped along by celebrities, such as supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who gave birth to her son in 2010 in the bathtub of her home.
Proponents of water birth tout it as more natural and gentle than giving birth on a bed or table in a harshly-lit hospital. Of course, even with these purported advantages, few parents would agree to try water birth unless they were convinced it was as safe, or safer than a conventional hospital birth. But is it? And how, as a parent, do you know whom you should trust about water birth?
What Doctors Say About Water Birth Risks
For decades, there has been little clear guidance regarding water birth from medical organizations, though most obstetricians did not offer it in their practices. In 2014, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) offered joint guidelines regarding this practice and the risk of water birth injuries.
These respected organizations have identified some advantages to undergoing the first stage of labor in a birthing pool for healthy women with normal pregnancies; these include shorter labor and reduced pain. That said, their conclusions regarding actually giving birth underwater are unequivocal: there is no proven benefit to either the mother or baby with an underwater birth, and such births have serious medical risks, including the death of the infant.
The joint guidelines state that the safety and efficacy of giving birth under water have not been established, and go on to say that water birth should be considered an experimental procedure.
What are some of the risks of water birth? They include:
- Bacterial infection: even the best-sterilized tub is contaminated when a laboring mother enters it;
- Aspiration of meconium: infants may have a bowel movement prior to birth, and may inhale fecal matter in the birthing pool or tub;
- Pneumonia: typically caused by caused by meconium aspiration, bacterial contamination of tub water, or fecal contamination;
- Snapping or tearing of the umbilical cord, leading to fetal blood loss;
- Birth injuries such as cerebral palsy.
These are risks which exist even in uncomplicated pregnancies. If the mother has certain conditions, such as herpes or preeclampsia, there are even more serious risks.
How Water Birth Malpractice Occurs
If you elected to have a water birth, and had a negative outcome, did medical malpractice take place? Possibly. If your midwife or doctor failed to adequately inform you of the risks of a water birth, that lack of informed consent may constitute malpractice. Similarly, if your practitioner allowed you to undergo a water birth even though it was medically contraindicated due to a known health condition, that also may rise to the level of malpractice. So can failure to maintain sanitary conditions, leading to infection in mother or baby.
Relatively few personal injury attorneys in Oregon are equipped to handle medical malpractice cases; even fewer have the knowledge and experience to deal with malpractice related to underwater birth. To learn more about what's involved in a water birth malpractice case, and whether you may have a cause of action, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to working with you.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.