The answer is yes — just not at the hospital.
Recently, I sat down with Barbara Harper, who is a leading voice for childbirth and maternity care reform, an author, educator, midwife and internationally recognized expert on the use of warm water immersion for labor and birth.
Barbara first visited Bermuda a decade ago. During a lunch and learn at King Edward Memorial Hospital, she invited obstetricians, midwives and nurses alike to learn about the benefits of water birth. She then inspected the delivery rooms to ensure they were suitable for the option of water birth – they were. All that was needed, she explained, was the upfront investment – about $400 – for a reusable, clip-together pool. The only recurring cost, from patient to patient, would be the plastic tub lining, costing only $40 per patient. However, no members of the maternity ward attended and water birth never became an option at the hospital.
From Barbara’s work, it has become clear that water birth is actually one of the safest (and most comfortable) options available to labouring and birthing women. Barbara works closely with private and public hospitals in China, and gave this anecdote about her work there: “In one of the districts of Shanghai, they’ve now had over 10,000 water births. The hospital actually put together a randomized control trial with their first patients. Five-hundred mothers were supposed to be part of the study. After fewer than a hundred, the hospital abandoned the trial and opened water birth to everyone, stating that the results were too drastically skewed towards water birth as a healthy and positive alternative that they didn’t want to prevent any low-risk soon-to-be moms from experiencing it.” She gives yet another anecdote from China: “Two public hospitals installed water tubs after reading my book. And further, after I led an 8-day training in one of the hospitals, the hospital removed all of the beds and put mats down instead. Their epidural rate is non-existent. The c-section rate of this public hospital is 18%, and it does 22,000 water births per year.” Wow!
Over the years, the hospital in Bermuda has excused its lack of birth offerings, specifically birthing pools, with lack of demand. (How many women must demand it? This number remains undefined by the hospital.) And while it is recognized that it’s the consumer’s responsibility to make demands on our institutions, many women do not realize that this responsibility falls on them, and the precious few that do usually find themselves in a vulnerable position (pregnancy) that doesn’t altogether lend itself well to causing a stir.
It is unfortunate, though, that this is the position that our healthcare professionals have taken given that the healthcare professionals are intended to promote health and wellbeing. There are many studies that show that, statistically, water birth leads to increased relaxation and maternal satisfaction, decreased perineal trauma, decreased pain and use of pharmaceuticals and decreased labor time. Additionally, no randomized controlled trials have demonstrated adverse effects to the fetus or neonate. You can find more research here.
Still today, King Edward Memorial Hospital does not offer water birth as an option. But that doesn’t mean it can’t.
If you would like water birth to be an option for your future births, for other women’s births or for your grandchildren’s births, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and state your interest.
If you would like to enjoy the option of water birth immediately, you may consider having a beautiful water birth at your home in Bermuda. Find more information here.