News

New tool to ease water births

Pregnant women and midwives could benefit from a new tool designed to make water births safer and easier.

Researchers have invented an illuminated, adjustable mirror that can be used under water when a baby is being born.

The device is the first of its kind and has been developed by a team from Edinburgh and Loughborough and Heriot-Watt universities.

Researchers now hope to secure further funding to manufacture the mirror so that clinical trials to test it can begin.

Flexible help

The mirror, which has lights around its frame, is mounted securely on a flexible pole.

Its design makes it easier for midwives to see when a baby’s head crowns - the moment when the head first becomes visible.

As the baby’s head crowns, midwives assist the infant’s entry into the water.

Midwives currently have to bend over the side of a pool and, with one hand, hold a mirror under the water to look for the baby’s head crowning, while shining a torch above with the other hand.

Unique design

The tool has been developed with midwives at NHS Lothian Birth Centre in Edinburgh, and engineers and product designers at Heriot Watt University and Loughborough University.

Researchers say that although this approach is safe, the new tool would improve the process for midwives - as they would no longer need to use two instruments, nor adopt an awkward position for a long time.

We believe that our tool addresses an unmet clinical need and will help both mothers having water births and midwives who care for them. This prototype has been designed by midwives, for midwives.

Dr Fiona DenisonSenior lecturer and honorary consultant in Maternal and Fetal Medicine at the University of Edinburgh’s Tommy’s Centre / Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health

Water births

The mirror will make having a water birth more pleasant and dignified for women, experts add.

Around 48,000 women in the UK have a water birth every year.

Experts say that giving birth in a water pool is an effective form of pain relief and helps many women to feel in control during labour.

It is important to try to create a relaxed and calm atmosphere when a woman is in labour. Sometimes, as a midwife you feel like you need to disrupt this to try and gain a clear view. My colleagues and I are excited about the prospect of an instrument that gives you a clear picture of what’s happening without interruption.

Sheonagh Brook-SmithLead midwife for the Lothian Birth Centre

The tool is funded by the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, Tommy’s the baby charity and the University.

It is also supported by Edinburgh BioQuarter.