During the recent Legionnaires disease incident we were asked to recall all of our heated birth pools whilst safety of all heated pools was checked and new national guidelines were drawn up. Though we have been safely hiring our exclusive model of heated birth pool since 1992 with no incidents of infection reported and our model of pool was not the model involved in the incident, we quickly complied with Public Health Englands request to have local environmental health teams test our pools and for all of our pools to be returned to us until further notice. All samples taken from Barefoot Birth Pools confirmed our pools had been safe to use and we were advised by Trading Standards that we could continue to hire our pools should we wish to however, we have made the difficult decision not to continue to hire our heated birth pools.
There are many reasons for our decision and these include:
- Public Health England have not retracted their statement that heated pools are not safe for mothers to use for labour and birth and they have also stated that they will not be reviewing their guidelines in the immediate future. To continue to hire our pools would therefore be going against their guidelines and we cannot be confident that our families would be fully covered under any insurance policy whilst using their pool.
- Though we are confident in our safety protocols and procedures as Public Health England have instructed all midwives to not allow mothers to use the pools for labour and birth we do not feel this is an acceptable position to ask the families using our pools to put themselves in during such a sensitive time nor the midwives supporting them. To ask midwives to allow mothers to use our pools would be asking them to go against their guidelines.
- We are deeply uncomfortable with asking mothers to sign their consent to Terms and Conditions stating that they are choosing to hire the pool at their own risk and in understanding of the current guidelines advising against their use.
- We are proud supporters of gentle, natural birth and are uncertain of the safety for babies in using the strength of chemicals required in the pool during labour and birth to ensure absolute safety from Legionnaires and other bacteria.
- We are passionate about home birth and are concerned that should we continue to make pools available that are against health guidelines homebirth will lose support from midwives, and the health trusts they work for. As Public Health England has stated that midwives are still encouraged to support mothers planning a water birth using the fill to use pools we feel that making more of these pools available and accessible is the best way to continue to promote home birth and encourage the use of water as a safe, gentle method of pain management during labour.