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University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) aims to have an initial uptake of 15-to-20 per cent of the service. Some 4,500 births occur at the hospital annually.
A decision was taken to modernise a home-from-home delivery room at the hospital two years ago and this was used as an opportunity to introduce the pool for women in labour, a hospital spokesperson explained.
“As with any new service, the numbers of women who avail of it may be low in the beginning, but we are confident that word of mouth and women having a good experience will help to increase the women availing of the room and the pool. Correspondence has been received from women over the last couple of years on a regular basis advocating for this service, so we expect good uptake,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson was unable to provide a figure on the cost of the new service, but stated that initial costs for the renovation of the room, purchase of the pool and training of midwives would be offset in future because more women would be less reliant on costly pharmacological means to support them in labour. The hospital also expects that the project will prove cost-effective in the long-term.
Women are offered the opportunity to labour in water for pain relief. The pool is a large bath in which a pregnant woman can sit or adopt a range of different positions to optimise her mobility and comfort. The service is only for labouring in water. The woman will deliver her baby out of the water.
The benefits include increased relaxation, increased mobility, reduced need for pharmacological analgesia, reduced birth interventions, no difference in perineal trauma and enhanced feelings of satisfaction and control.
The development is in keeping with the National Maternity Strategy (2016) in providing more choice for pregnant women.
Specific criteria are in place for women using the pool, including that women must have a normal pregnancy with no complications.
Water immersion in labour is available at other sites nationally, including Cork, Galway and Drogheda.