Expectant mothers in the area are reportedly being denied the option of a water birth at the new regional hospital.
The South East Regional Hospital has been celebrating its state-of-the-art modern facilities. However, the “island baths” advertised as a special feature of the birthing suites are apparently off limits, for now.
A Bega couple due to give birth within weeks raised the issue as one of significant concern.
The couple, who prefer to remain anonymous, said mothers and parents need to be made aware of SERH management’s apparent stance against water births.
“The midwives are fantastic and I don’t think it’s to do with them,” the heavily pregnant mother said.
“Someone higher up is being obstructive.
“They’ve worked so hard and it’s beautifully set up – I sense there’s a lot of people asking why.”
A NSW Health government policy directive dated 2010 – Towards Normal Birth in NSW – states access to water immersion during labour and birth is one of 10 mandatory requirements of all public health organisations offering maternity services.
Another mandatory requirement was the training of all health care staff “in skills necessary to implement this policy” – which by its own design includes water immersion for pregnant women.
General manager of the Bega Valley Health Service Heather Austin said the hospital is “doing the sensible thing” and performing a thorough risk assessment on the baths before allowing their use.
“We have had several ‘practice runs’ with staff on how to manage in emergency situations,” Ms Austin said.
“When we get the risk management report and recommendations back, and if we can guarantee safety [they will be made available].
“Without pre-empting what that report says, we would like to provide a service where the mother has a choice and knows she is safe no matter what. But we need to establish a proper and safe protocol first.”
As a trained doula, Bermagui’s Emma Vassallo advocates on behalf of her clients and offers emotional and some physical support during labour and birth.
She said most of her clients wish for and use water immersion as therapy during pregnancy and labour, and it was disappointing SERH wasn’t offering it.
“You just look at their faces light up when they get in the water, it’s like they’re high,” Ms Vassallo said.
“We call it a natural epidural – they feel less pressure, less pain from contractions, women feel relaxed and safe.
“And birth is safer and more effective if the mother is in a calm state,” she said.
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