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Warm tub bathing during labor: maternal and neonatal effects


Address for correspondence: Hakan Rydhström, M.D.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Helsingborg Hospital
SE-251 87 Helsingborg


Aim. To study possible detrimental maternal and neonatal effects of immersion in warm water during labor.

Design. Prospective randomized controlled bathing during first stage of labor vs no bathing.

Setting. Obstetrical departments at a university hospital and two central hospitals.

Primary end-point. Referral of newborns to NICU.

Material and methods. Randomization took place by means of sealed opaque envelopes at each delivery unit. Preconditions for participation in the study were: singleton parturient wishing to bathe, a gestational duration of at least 35 weeks+0 days, a planned vaginal delivery, normal admission test, regular contractions and cervix dilated to at least 3–4 cm. Parturients randomized to the ‘no bath’ control group were allowed to use a shower. Rupture of the membranes was not a contra-indication to participation. Those excluded from randomization were women with intra-uterine growth retardation, meconium-stained amniotic fluid, or in the event that the tub was occupied by another randomized parturient.

Main results. On average, parturients stayed in the tub for 50–60 min. No significant difference was seen regarding the referral rate to NICU among 612 cases vs 625 controls, OR 0.8; 95% CL 0.2, 3.1. The OR for epidural analgesia was 1.0; 95% CL 0.8, 1.3. Nor was any significant difference seen in the rate of perineal tear grade III–IV (OR 1.3), instrumental delivery (OR 1.1), cesarean section (OR 1.8), or maternal post partum stay on the ward. During the neonatal period, no significant difference was seen in the number of newborns with Apgar <7 at 5 min (4 vs 5), neonatal distress (OR 2.2) or tachypnéa (OR 1.0).

Conclusion. In the present study no negative effects of bathing during labor could be discerned. The results indicate that expectant mothers wishing to bathe during labor may do so without jeopardizing their own, or their newborns’ wellbeing after birth.