Water births have become increasingly popular among women looking at alternative birthing options. While study data indicates water immersion is offered in more than 60 per cent of births, a case report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is highlighting a risk.
“Canadian Baby Suffers Multiple Organ Failure After Hot Tub Birth”
It’s a headline no soon-to-be parent wants to read, especially if an at-home hot tub water birth is in the plans. The case in question involved a home birth, where a full-term baby was born in a hot tub. The hot tub had been pre-filled ahead of the baby’s delivery. The birth was attended by a midwife and the healthy baby weighed in at 7lbs, 11oz. The baby was noted as “vigorous at birth” and breast fed well right from the outset.
Eight days following the hot tub birth, the baby had a fever of 39.1C. Upon arrival at the hospital, the doctors noted the baby was having trouble breathing and an X-ray showed pneumonia in the right lung. The baby failed to respond to antibiotics and antiviral drugs. A Legionella test was performed and came back positive.
So how did the baby end up with the bacterium that causes legionnaires’ disease? According to the study, factors included “inadequately disinfecting the birthing tank, using a contaminated water source, using jetted tubs and heating water all increase the bacterial load of the birthing water”. By the time the doctors had identified the infection, the hot tub had been disinfected – so the germ was not found. However, this latest case was one of several that documented newborns contracting Legionella following water births.
Think twice about a hot tub birth
While water births do offer multiple benefits to mother and baby, it would be prudent to discuss the latest study data with your midwife and/or medical professional before delivery day!