A critical analysis of Australian policies and guidelines for water immersion during labour and birth

Megan Cooper, Helen McCutcheon, Jane Warland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background Accessibility of water immersion for labour and/or birth is often dependent on the care provider and also the policies/guidelines that underpin practice. With little high quality research about the safety and practicality of water immersion, particularly for birth, policies/guidelines informing the practice may lack the evidence necessary to ensure practitioner confidence surrounding the option thereby limiting accessibility and women's autonomy. Aim The aims of the study were to determine how water immersion policies and/or guidelines are informed, who interprets the evidence to inform policies/guidelines and to what extent the policy/guideline facilitates the option for labour and birth. Method Phase one of a three-phase mixed-methods study critically analysed 25 Australian water immersion policies/guidelines using critical discourse analysis. Findings Policies/guidelines pertaining to the practice of water immersion reflect subjective opinions and views of the current literature base in favour of the risk-focused obstetric and biomedical discursive practices. Written with hegemonic influence, policies and guidelines impact on the autonomy of both women and practitioners. Conclusion Policies and guidelines pertaining to water immersion, particularly for birth reflect opinion and varied interpretations of the current literature base. A degree of hegemonic influence was noted prompting recommendations for future maternity care policy and guidelines’. Ethical considerations The Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of South Australia approved the research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-441
Number of pages11
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Childbirth
  • Choice
  • Practice guideline
  • Risk
  • Water immersion
  • Waterbirth


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