Largest waterbirth study results
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Issue #24, January 21, 2016

Largest Study on Waterbirth Finds No Harm to Babies

MANA Stats Data Plays Key Role in New Research

In a study published online yesterday in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, MANA Division of Research Coordinating Council members Marit Bovbjerg, Melissa Cheyney, and Courtney Everson explored the issue of waterbirth safety, using the MANA Stats 2.0 dataset.

The study included data from 18,343 women who had home or birth center births; 6,521 (35%) of these women had waterbirths. The researchers found no evidence of harm to babies who were born underwater. Whether looking at 5-minute Apgar score, neonatal transfer to the hospital, any hospitalization in the first 6 weeks, NICU admission in the first 6 weeks, or neonatal death, the results were clear: babies born underwater fared as well as those babies whose mothers did not choose a waterbirth.

While the study confirmed that mothers who had a waterbirth were not at increased risk of postpartum transfer (for a maternal indication), hospitalization in the first 6 weeks, or perineal/uterine infection, the study did suggest that mothers who choose waterbirth have a slightly increased risk of experiencing perineal trauma.

This study is the largest ever published, and the first study to be published in a US population. It provides solid evidence that waterbirth can be a safe and viable option for many lower-risk pregnant women, though midwives and other health care professionals should, as with all childbearing decisions, discuss potential risks and benefits with families and engage in shared decision making.

Excited about this research? We are too, and we owe it all to you! This research would not be possible without the many midwives who contribute data to the MANA Statistics project. The ability to even study waterbirth highlights the value of the MANA Stats project, which provides a rich dataset focused on physiologic birth practices. Without this data source, large research studies on practices like waterbirth would be difficult, given their relative infrequency in the hospital under biomedical management. So, midwife contributors, many thanks for taking the time to advance research on midwifery care and physiologic birth practices! And for those midwives not yet contributing, you can sign-up anytime! Learn more here.

Watch here and on our Facebook page for a forthcoming post on Science and Sensibility discussing the nuances of this article, its methods, and the broader implications, and visuals to share with study outcomes.

Upcoming Developments in Waterbirth

Watch for more on waterbirth in the coming months, including:
  • a MANA blog post on evidence-informed practice in waterbirth;
  • a new, evidence-based waterbirth clinical bulletin drafted by a multi-stakeholder group - coming in the spring;
  • a waterbirth position statement, published jointly by MANA and Citizens for Midwifery and written for a broad audience including health care professionals, consumers, and policy makers to provide an overview of available research and clinical wisdom on waterbirth.

Science & Sensibility Provides In-Depth Coverage of NEJM Article

Recent series provides analysis for midwives, consumers

In a three-part series, Science & Sensibility provided in-depth coverage of the NEJM article, including an analysis by Henci Goer here, an interview with Melissa Cheyney here, and most recently, an interview with lead author Jonathan Snowden, PhD (click here to read.) The series was also accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Perinatal Education, the peer-reviewed journal for childbirth educators. Watch here for details.

Nominations Extended through January 24

It's not too late to nominate!

Do you know someone who has been thinking they may want to serve on the MANA board but just can't decide whether to run? Well, there's still time to make the decision. We would love to have many names on the ballot! We have extended the nominations period until January 24.

Nominate yourself or someone you know!

Click Here To Make a Nomination

Start the #MANA16 Party Now!

Join Our Facebook Event Community

Keep up-to-date with early bird deadlines, event news, room sharing, and local event planning. Join the #MANA16 Facebook Event Page. Click here to join.

Meet the MANA Board:


Director of Events, Nicole Marie White, CPM

Nicole White, MANA Director of EventsMeet Nicole White, MANA's Director of Events, and learn about her activism, long legacy of midwifery, and what calls her to birth work in this week's MANA blog post here.

Deadline Approaching for Call for Proposals

Share Your Wisdom With #MANA16

#MANA16 Call for ProposalsShare Your Expertise at #MANA16 in Atlanta, Georgia! MANA is seeking proposals on topics including clinical skills, education, global health, clinical issues, legal concerns and general interest. All proposals are due by January 31, 2016. Learn more and apply here.

Dates to Remember

Nominations Open: 
NOW through Jan 24, 2016

Deadline Speaker Submissions - Submit Abstracts Here
Jan 31, 2016

Board Election: 
Feb 10, 2016

New Board Members Announced: 
Mar 10, 2016

#MANA16, Atlanta, GA
Oct 13-16, 2016
Copyright © 2016 Midwives Alliance of North America, All rights reserved.

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