Background: Water immersion for labour and birth is consistently challenged as a practice lacking support from high quality evidence. Despite this, the option is available to Australian women. Practitioners are guided by policies and guidelines however, given the research paucity, questions surround the way in which water immersion policies and guidelines are informed. Aims: The aims of the study were to determine how water immersion policies and/or guidelines are informed and to what extent the policy/guideline facilitates the option of water immersion for labour and birth with respect to women's choice and autonomy. Methods: Phase two of a three phase mixed methods study used critical, post structural interpretive interactionism to examine the process of development and implementation of water immersion policies and guidelines from informant's experience. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 Australian participants. Findings: Participants highlighted that the lack of randomised controlled trials had resulted in other forms of evidence being drawn upon to inform water immersion policies and guidelines. This was influenced in part by individual interpretations of evidence with medical views taking precedence. This sometimes resulted in policy and guideline documents that were restrictive with this impacting on women's ability to access the option. Conclusion: Perceived limitations of research and the subsequent translation of this perceived paucity of evidence into policies and guidelines, has impacted on women's ability to exercise choice and autonomy with respect to water immersion and indeed, on the professional autonomy of practitioners who wish to facilitate it.
- Practice guideline
- Water immersion