Water birth 'provides the safest form of pain relief'

All expectant mothers should be offered the chance to have a water birth because it provides the safest form of pain relief, the Government's health watchdog says.

A birthing pool is not necessary and climbing into a bath at home or in hospital during labour can be just as effective, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

In guidance to be published today, Nice says extending the use of water births could improve the experience of maternity care for thousands of women.

A spokeswoman said: "Getting into a warm bath is a very effective method of pain relief and there are no side effects as with drugs or gas and air. You can do it at home or in hospital in an ordinary bath. It does not always have to be a birthing pool."

Giving birth should be a normal process which ends with a spontaneous vaginal delivery where mother and baby are healthy afterwards, the guidance says. But too often, it has become a medical procedure because doctors and midwives – and mothers – become anxious about letting nature take its course.

"In some cases women have had medical interventions they did not need. This guidance is about putting together best practice to ensure it is as normal a process as possible," the spokeswoman said.

The number of Caesareans has doubled in a generation and more than half of births now involve some form of intervention – forceps, ventouse (suction) or other instrumental delivery. Doctors, midwives and women's groups have become alarmed that mothers are being denied a natural birth and the NHS is spending millions without reducing the risks.

Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health, pledged yesterday to increase the number of midwives. He told the Labour Party conference: "We have initially planned an extra 1,000 midwives by 2009. If birth rates continue to rise we will need to train more."

Nice says women should receive one-to-one care during labour and clinical intervention should be avoided where labour is progressing normally. Women should be warned about the risks and benefits before being given an epidural and instrumental birth should be undertaken with "tested effective anaesthesia". Women should also be given the choice of a home birth.

Maureen Treadwell of the Birth Trauma Association said: "There is no 'right' way to give birth... However, where women receive excellent support, good information and feel in control of what is going on, and where analgesia for medical procedures is adequate and effective, then a complicated birth need not be a traumatic one, but a positive experience."

The Royal College of Obstetricians said it supported normal birth but warned that complications could occur in as many as 30 per cent of first-time mothers assessed as low risk.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss