I have learned this week that some things can’t be repeated often enough. If you know the story of the theoretical risk of water embolism and understand that this is no more likely than lunar transplacental relocation (the explanation of which shall be offered to the uninitiated presently), then I will simply thank you and allow you to click away. In fact, I’ll even give you a link to click: have a look at this fabulous water-related website that my friend Julie shared with me yesterday.
If, however, you are harbouring under the impression that the theoretical risk of water embolism is an actual possibility and/or a real risk when women labour and/or birth in water, then please give me three more really brief sentences to convince you otherwise.
It is not real.
Michel Odent made it up, when the then editor of The Lancet asked him to theorise about possible risks in his 1983 article about waterbirth.
He is really sorry.
He is also, at least when we last discussed it, not best pleased that this is the one phrase that everyone remembers from an article which was seminal in that it was the first ever published research on waterbirth; a practice that was not the original intention of the unit he ran in Pithiviers but that was an inevitable occasional occurrence in a population of women who were really enjoying the water and sometimes accidentally didn’t get out in time. (And good for them, I say; I’m all for a bit of policy-bending!)
In fact, I don’t need to detail the whole story here, because I have already written about it in an attempt to share it more widely and spread the word that this risk was speculative and hasn’t happened in thousands of waterbirths. Because I’ve heard two midwives mention this in the last few days, and promised that I would make it my next post, I have just uploaded the article to share on here.
Here’s the article: The Birth of Water Embolism