A newborn baby has died from Legionnaires’ disease just a few weeks after being born in a heated birthing pool at his home.
The tragic death highlights the need for pregnant women to understand the risks of water births — and for standardisation of cleaning procedures in some midwife facilities.
The death, in Texas in the US, occurred when the baby was infected with Legionella bacteria found in the birthing pool where he was born, a new report by the Texas Department of State Health Services has found.
While the little boy appeared healthy immediately after his January 2014 birth, he’d developed diarrhoea, cyanosis and respiratory failure by the time he was admitted to hospital at six days old, according to a report in medical journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The little boy was placed on a machine to help him breathe, but died 19 days after his birth, CBS News reports.
Emerging Infectious Diseases reports that a midwifery centre had filled the jetted birthing pool with well water and added ‘purifying’ spa drops to the water — but they did not contain chlorine, and the water hadn’t been disinfected before use.
The tub also had internal tubing that hadn’t been approved for use as medical equipment, and can be difficult to disinfect.
The water was left to circulate in the pool for around 37°C until two days before the birth, when the tub was drained, filled with new well water, and left to circulate until the delivery.
Tests later found that the tiny boy’s death was caused by Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that can be commonly found in hot tubs and plumbing systems.
CBS News reports that giving birth in water is generally not recommended because there are no proven benefits, and there are potential risks to the baby.
“(Babies) are in a higher risk category because of their underdeveloped immune system, and their developing physiology,” co-author of the new report Elyse Fritschel, from the Texas Department of State Health Services, said.
While this death marks the first documented case of the disease’s link to water births in the US, there have been reported cases in the UK and France.