Background: Water birth involves the complete birth of the baby under warm water. There is a lack of consensus regarding the safety of water birth.
Aim: This study aimed to describe the maternal and neonatal outcomes associated with water birth among labouring women deemed at low risk for obstetric complications and compare these outcomes against women of similar risk who had a standard land birth.
Method: A retrospective audit and comparison of women giving birth in water with a matched cohort who birthed on land at Bankstown hospital over a 10 year period (2000-2009).
Results: In total 438 childbearing women were selected for this study (N=219 in each arm). Primigravida women represented 42% of the study population. There was no significant difference in mean duration of both first and second stages of labour or postpartum blood loss between the two birth groups. There were no episiotomies performed in the water birth arm which was significantly different to the comparison group (N=33, p<0.001). There were more babies in the water birth group with an Apgar score of 7 or less at 1min (compared to land births). However, at 5min there was no difference in Apgar scores between the groups. Three of eight special care nursery admissions in the water birth group were related to feeding difficulties.
Conclusion: This is the largest study on water birth in an Australian setting. Despite the limitations of a retrospective audit the findings make a contribution to the growing body of knowledge on water birth.
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