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Health agency confirms advice not to use pre-filled home birth pools

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Public Health England has recommended that heated birthing pools with built-in heaters and recirculation, which are filled up to two weeks in advance of labour, should no longer used in the home setting.

The advice confirms a precautionary alert issued on 17 June, which was sparked by a case of Legionnaires’ disease identified in a baby born in this type of birthing pool at home.  

It means that heated birthing pools, incorporating both a re-circulation pump and heater, which are filled several weeks in advance of labour, should no longer be used for labour or birth at home due to the risks from exposure to the legionella bacteria.

“Further investigation into this incident has confirmed that the type of legionella bacteria found in the birthing pool is the same strain which caused the baby to become ill with Legionnaires’ disease,” said PHE’s head of Legionnaires’ disease professor Nick Phin.

“This final recommendation is based on the difficulty, in the home setting, of preventing legionella growth in re-circulated warm water over a period of days or weeks,” he said.


Nick Phin

“For this reason, PHE has confirmed its earlier precautionary advice and is recommending that this type of pre-filled, heated birthing pool is no longer used at all at home,” he added.

The child identified as having Legionnaires’ lung disease was immediately admitted to intensive care in hospital.

It is the first reported case of the disease being linked to a birthing pool in England - and the heated pools from the supplier involved in the incident were instantly recalled by health bosses as a precautionary measure.

Around 10 companies supply the specific pools. Each has between two and 14, which they loan out to expectant mothers.

The pools are typically delivered around a fortnight before the expected delivery date and filled from the domestic hot water supply. The temperature is then maintained by a pump and heater until labour and delivery.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Women planning birth at home using a traditional pool that is filled when the woman is in labour or using a fixed pool in an NHS unit are not affected by this alert and should not be concerned.

“Birthing pools in hospitals are subject to stringent infection control procedures and monitoring. Home birthing pools filled during labour come with disposable liners and are only in place for a relatively short time period, reducing opportunity for bacterial growth,” she added.




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