Multi-professional and organisational perspectives of barriers and facilitators related to birthing pool use

Megan Cooper, Anna Madeley, Ethel Burns, Claire Feeley

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Water immersion for labour and/or birth is a low-tech, non-pharmacological pain relief option. Although established as a safe alternative to pharmacological analgesics and associated with benefits such as increased rates of spontaneous vaginal birth and high maternal satisfaction, there remain significant obstacles that inhibit access to and uptake of birthing pool use.

To identify and synthesise the evidence that explores the facilitators and barriers of birthing pool use from multi-professional and organisational perspectives.

We employed a systematic integrated mixed methods approach to reviewing the evidence. Databases including MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsychINFO, EMCARE, PROQUEST and Web of Science were searched in April 2021 and March 2022. Results were crosschecked against Google Scholar and the reference lists of papers that met the inclusion criteria. Barriers and facilitators to birthing pool use were extracted from the included manuscripts and these data were then mapped into descriptive statements and further synthesised into overarching themes.

The views of 9,082 multi-professionals (midwives, nurses, obstetricians, neonatologists, students, physicians, maternity support workers, doulas and childbirth educators) were collected from 37 articles (29 studies), across 12 countries. Nine papers analysed a total of 285 institutional policies or guidelines. Five themes were generated: The paradox of prescriptiveness, The experienced but elusive practitioner, Advocacy and tensions, Trust or Trepidation and It’s your choice, but only if it is a choice. The themes emphasised the challenges and barriers women and midwives face in accessing a birthing pool during labour and/or birth. While these factors were commonly found to inhibit women’s sense of control and decision-making, autonomy of choice and birthing pool access were enhanced where personal, contextual, organisational and infrastructural inhibitors were addressed. As such, we exposed how the “swing” between facilitators and barriers directly affects whether birthing pool use is viewed and supported as a genuine option.

The findings revealed the challenges and obstacles of navigating the often conflicting and paradoxical reality of water immersion for labour and birth. Exposing the barriers will aid in combatting negativity, overcoming obstacles and mitigating against organisational and infrastructural challenges. Our results have highlighted that where these inhibitory factors are navigated and/or addressed, change is possible, and the “swing” is in favour of birthing pool use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S19-S19
Number of pages1
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
EventAustralian College of Midwives National Conference: Be the Change - Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 12 Sept 202314 Sept 2023


  • Water immersion
  • Labour
  • Birthing


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