Labour & Delivery

Queensland Health Puts Weight Restriction on Water Birth Sparking Outrage

Planning a water birth?

You may have to re-think those plans, if you’re a mama-to-be in QLD anyway.

New guidelines released by Queensland Health have put a blanket ban on water birth for women who weigh over 100kg.

It’s a move that’s created controversy, with The Maternity Consumer Network branding it a decision that undermines a woman’s birth choices.

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Water Birth: The Facts

A relatively small number of Australian women have water births, especially in comparison to places like the UK where the birthing method is more common place.

This is primarily due to two main factors.

  1. The first being that not all hospitals in Australia offer water birth.
  2. The second relates to the strict criteria surrounding eligibility to birth in the bath or birthing pool.

While the majority of hospitals and birthing centres offer ‘water immersion‘, not all are equipped for an actual ‘water birth’, which requires accredited midwives/doctors and specific equipment.

To be eligible for a water birth women must generally meet a number of strict criteria, including:

  • A low risk pregnancy with spontaneous (not augmented) labour
  • A minimum gestation of 37 weeks
  • A singleton pregnancy (not twins/multiples)
  • No visible or known complications

Many hospitals and birth centres will have their own specific criteria women need to meet before attempting a water birth. This can sometimes include a woman’s weight and ability/inability to enter and exit a birthing pool or tub.

The Sticking Point

The ability to enter and exit the bath or birthing pool is where the weight issue has grabbed a foothold. It’s a generalisation that Alecia Staines from The Maternity Consumer Network strongly disagrees with.

“This blanket ruling is stopping many capable women from following their preferred birthing plan,” she told The Courier Mail.

“We know from data that Queensland women are bigger and if they can get in and out of the bath and have the all-clear medically, then they should be given the green light.”

Equating weight with size and assumed capability is a risky move, considering the decision doesn’t take into account an individual’s height. “A 6ft tall (182cm) woman could easily weigh 90kg pre-pregnancy and be a size 12,” says Ms Staines.

What the Science Says

Water birth can be a contentious subject within the world of birth. Currently, the The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has concluded that,

“the evidence to date has failed to reveal any major problems with either warm water immersion or water birth in selected low risk women, particularly when clinicians are adequately educated and practice with care.”

Research has also found that healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies may find the use of water in labour helpful in managing the pain of contractions. This will lead to a reduction in the use of pharmacological pain relief.

At this stage, each state and territory has its own criteria regarding eligibility for water birth. It remains to be seen whether or not Queensland’s adoption of the policy will end up becoming common place.

Water birth can be an amazing experience. Check out these birth photos to see for yourself!

Avatar of Naomi Foxall

Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar of Renee

    I have looked on the Queensland Health Website and can’t find anything yet about this restriction. Do you have the link?

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