Texas lost a baby to Legionnaire’s disease thought to have been contracted during a waterbirth in a heated, jetted tub in 2014. Last week, the news reported that two more babies contracted Legionnaire’s after waterbirths. These babies were in Arizona and one was in a heated, jetted tub, and Arizona recently instituted guidelines similar to the ones that Texas has in place.
The guidelines are lengthy and well worth the time to read, but here are a few of the highlights for families who are thinking about waterbirth:
· Use a non-jetted tub.
· Use a new tub or a properly disinfected tub with a new liner for every birth.
· Use a new drinking water quality hose to fill the tub.
· Run the water for 3 minutes to flush bacteria out of the water line before filling the tub.
· Fill the pool only under the direction of your midwife or care provider.
· Empty the water and use a new liner if water stands in the pool for more than six hours.
A quick Google search shows me that people all across the US are still renting out Jacuzzi-style tubs for birth. We know that this is unsafe and it needs to end now.
Professionals who loan or rent pools must use EPA registered disinfectants that are tuberculocidal. I prefer bleach and pre-moistened Cavicide wipes, and there is a long list on the EPA’s website if you want to review all of your disinfecting options. Bleach is $3.99/gallon for Clorox and CaviWipes are $12.99 for a tub of 160 wipes. In my practice, we mix fresh bleach spray every day and keep tubs of Cavi-Wipes on hand. If you’re not using bleach to clean because you’re concerned about the fumes, spend $6.97 at Home Depot and get a mask designed for bleach.
Families, ask questions! There is a reason why your care provider is using sterile and sanitized tools at your birth – SAFETY. The pool should be no different, and ask specifically how it has been cleaned and stored. I completely understand wanting to use natural products in your home and around your baby – I really, really do – but you should insist on a properly disinfected pool, a new liner, and a new hose. If you’re asking questions and aren’t sure about what you’re being told about the equipment, call me. Seriously: call me.
Someone in a Facebook group where I posted similar feelings about this issue said I was speaking out just to sell pools. I don’t care if you get your pool from me, from my competition, from Amazon, from a doula, from a friend, from Freecycle, wherever. What I do care about is families having a safe pool for waterbirth. Safe tubs are readily available at all kinds of price points – there’s just no reason to choose an unsafe pool.