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Labour of love as 14 water babies born in Coombe

Fourteen women have had a water birth at the Coombe Women and Infants Hospital this year.

It's the only Dublin maternity hospital with a pool, and the only one in the country in which women can give birth.

Pools are available in three other maternity units nationwide offering pain relief during labour, but women are asked to exit them for the birth.

The Coombe has had its pool since April 2013 - labouring in water can shorten its length and the need for pain-relieving drugs can be reduced, and the chances of a normal birth are increased.


"Because it was so new for everybody, we said what we would do initially is try and have the women labour in there and ask them to come out for the birth. So that is what we did," said Paula Barry, practice development co-ordinator at the hospital."

"In May of this year, we changed our guidelines, which now means we can facilitate water birth."

It is available for those who want it, who are low-risk healthy women, and once they are due.

"The woman has to be happy and content and say 'I'd love to try this, and I'm really happy to do this,'" Ms Barry explained.

A total of 111 women have used it in labour for pain relief, and out of them 14 have had water births - with all the babies born since May this year.

"It's very much hands-off, a relaxed calm environment. The mum does it all herself, but the midwife is there. We call it watchful waiting.

"It's very much watching the mum, watching the baby, watching what's happening, and observing," she said.

"The midwife is there supporting and helping and observing for any problems.

"You check blood pressure, the mum's temperature, that she has plenty of water so she doesn't get dehydrated, and it's very important they keep an eye on the temperature of the water in the pool because we like it around 37C, not too hot, not too cold."

"We are trying to provide a nice home from home environment," she said.

However, Ms Barry pointed out that assistance is on hand if required. If there are any concerns about the mum or the baby at any stage, they will be advised to leave the pool. Some women choose to use gas and air also under supervision for pain relief.

"The first word that usually comes out of their mouth is 'ah this is lovely' when they get in, because it is so warm," she said.

Ms Barry said that the midwives have been fantastic, and it is a multi-disciplinary team.

"Some of the doctors are saying 'would you mind if I went in and saw this birth,' - they want to see it so they can tell the women in the clinic about it," the expert added.