HealthDay News — Water immersion during the labor and birth processes may be beneficial for healthy women and their newborns when used in an obstetric setting, according to a review published online July 5 in BMJ Open.

Ethel Burns, Ph.D., from Oxford Brookes University Faculty of Health and Life Science in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the effect of water immersion during labor or waterbirth on intrapartum interventions and outcomes to the effect of standard care with no water immersion. Thirty-six studies were included in the review, with 157,546 participants.

The authors observed a significant reduction in the use epidurals, injected opioids, and episiotomy; maternal pain; and postpartum hemorrhage with water immersion (odds ratios, 0.17, 0.22, 0.16, 0.24, and 0.69, respectively). With water immersion, there was also an increase in maternal satisfaction and in the odds of having an intact perineum (odds ratios, 1.95 and 1.48, respectively). Increased odds of cord avulsion were seen in association with waterbirth (odds ratio, 1.94), although the absolute risk was low (4.3 versus 1.3 per 1,000). No differences were seen in any other identified neonatal outcomes.

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“To enable the identification of best practice regarding water immersion, future birthing pool research should integrate factors that are known to influence intrapartum interventions and outcomes,” the authors write. “These include maternal parity, the care model, care practices, birth setting, and a clear description of the water immersion receptacle.”

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