Allina Health Bans Water Births Following Newly-Released Medical Opinion

Updated: 04/22/2014 6:19 AM
Created: 04/21/2014 6:57 PM
By: Kate Renner

The hospital system in Minnesota that says it delivers the most babies every year, will no longer have water births as an option for expectant moms. Allina Health made that decision Friday; it bans the increasingly popular delivery option at all its locations. 

Allina Health's decision to suspend water births took effect three days ago. Already a group of angry moms gathered outside St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee - they say this change is very personal.

"It is so sad, that the moms that came to these places for this option have been, literally had the rug pulled out from underneath them," said Liz Hochman, Childbirth Collective Board member, and DONA Doula.

Allina Doula Margaret Owens who is working with a mom in her 40th week of pregnancy said, "(She's) waiting to have a water birth with Allina Hospitals. And she's having the option taken away from her."

Justine Tempke's son was born in a water tub at Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis. "I would be devastated, I would actually probably consider home birthing," she said.

A new recommendation from the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics led Allina Health to take another look at the practice, something it's offered since 2011.

"There is not currently enough conclusive evidence regarding the safety, whether it's to the mother or to the baby of birth underwater," said Dr. Lisa Saul, Physician President, Mother Baby Clinical Service Line, Allina Health.

The medical groups' statement said more evidence is needed to show if there are any benefits or serious risks to the baby.

Saul asked, "Is there an issue with swallowing too much water, or breathing in too much water? (Are there) concerns about infection?"

Allina is trying to get approval to offer water birth clinical trials. But the protesting proponents say evidence by the American College of Nurse-Midwives is already there.

"We have research trials, it has been proven safe," said Liz Hochman.

For these moms, their positive birth experiences speak the loudest.

"If you take away water birth from us, then we walk," said Hochman.

Minnesota Medical Association does not have a stance on the practice of water births. Health East still offers water births at St. Joseph's, St. John's and Woodwinds, and said they are very popular.

KSTP called Hennepin County Medical Center and Fairview, but never heard back if their hospitals were making any changes to their water birth policies.

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