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Birthing Pools May Ease Labor Pains

Immersion in Water May Reduce the Need for Drugs, Medical Interventions
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Jan. 26, 2004 -- Placing pregnant women in birthing pools during the early stages of labor may ease pain and anxiety and reduce the need for additional medical interventions.

A new study shows that first-time mothers who had slower than expected progress in the initial stages of labor and were placed in birthing pools were less likely to need drugs to aid contractions or epidurals to relieve pain.

Researchers say the findings show that immersion in water for up to four hours may be an alternative means to manage slow labors and reduce stress.

Birthing Pools Ease Labor

In the study, published today in the online edition of the British Medical Journal, researchers compared the effects of using birthing pools on about 100 first-time mothers experiencing slow progression through the stages of labor.

Half of the women were immersed in water in the birth pool and the other half received standard medical care including medications to help with stimulating uterine contractions.

Researchers found that only half of the women who used the birthing pools needed an epidural anesthesia to relieve pain compared with two-thirds of the other women.

The women who labored in the birthing pools were also less likely to need drugs to aid contractions of the uterus to help them progress through the stages of labor. They also reported less pain and greater satisfaction with the freedom of movement provided by the birthing pool.

Researchers say that under standard practice, all women experiencing slow progress in labor receive further medical interventions to stimulate uterine contractions, but one-fifth of the women who used the birthing pools didn't require additional assistance.

The number of cesarean sections (C-sections) and difficult deliveries requiring the use of medical instruments, such as forceps, between the two groups was similar, and there was no evidence that use of the birthing pools increased the length of the labor process.

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