Water birth ‘best form of pain relief’

Water births are 'best form of pain relief' during labour

WATER BIRTHS SHOULD be offered to all expectant mothers as they provide the safest form of pain relief, according to the Government’s health watchdog.

A birthing pool is not necessarily required and getting into a bath at home or in hospital during labour can be just as effective, says the National Institute for Health and Excellence (Nice).

Guidance lines to be published by Nice today say that the use of water births could enhance the experience of maternity care for thousands of women.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Getting into a warm bath is a very effective method of pain relief and there are no side effects as with drugs or gas and air.’

New guidance from Nice also states that every woman should have the right to give birth at home, saying that healthy women who have had normal pregnancies are generally safe to give birth at home, in a hospital or in a maternity unit run by midwives. The Institute says that midwives and obstetricians should only intervene if there are problems with the birth.

The guidelines are intended to significantly reduce the number of caesarean sections and other expensive interventions. About 600,000 women give birth in England and Wales each year and almost one in four currently has a caesarean section.

The recommendation comes in the midst of a national shortage of up to 10,000 midwives. The Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, promised to increase the number of midwives at the Labour conference yesterday.

‘We have initially planned an extra 1,000 midwives by 2009. If birth rates continue to rise we will need to train more.’

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