Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the views, experiences, perceptions of and access to water immersion for labor and birth in Australia. Design: A sequential exploratory mixed methods study commenced in 2016. The first phase involved an online survey. The second phase is due to commence in 2019 and will involve focus groups and interviews. This paper presents a subset of results from phase one that asked women to self-rate the benefits and risks associated with water use on Likert-scales and for those who had a previous birth not involving water, how the two experiences compared. Participants: A total of 740 Australian women who had used water immersion for labor and/or birth rated the benefits against 7-point Likert scales and 736 responded to 5-point Likert scales relating to commonly cited concerns surrounding the option. Results: Women highly rated water immersion against all benefits. Benefits that were most highly rated (by numbers of ‘entirely agree’ on 7-point Likert scales) included sense of safety (80.14%), an alert baby (75.00%), a positive birth experience (72.70%), water as soothing (72.03%) and freedom of movement (71.35%). Women were most concerned (by selecting ‘somewhat’ to ‘extremely concerned’ on 5-point Likert scales) about being told to get out of the water when they did not want to (n = 120/736, 16.30%), their contractions going away (n = 76/736, 10.33%) and unsupportive staff (n = 65/736, 8.83%). More than 90% (n = 682/740) of women mostly to entirely agreed that they would recommend water immersion to others. Women rated water immersion as more comfortable, more satisfying and more relaxing when compared to previous births that they had that did not involve water. Key conclusions: Women value water immersion for labor and birth. They have very little to no concern for the most common adverse events as documented in the literature. Implications for practice: The results add to the growing evidence base surrounding water immersion for labor and birth. Whilst there remains ongoing debate about the safety of water immersion, women's experiences should be considered alongside outcome data. The results of this study may assist policy makers and clinicians in their advocacy and support of women who choose water immersion. Ethical considerations: The Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of South Australia approved the research.
- Water immersion