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Legionnaires home birthing warnings continue

Legionella contamination has been found in more heated home birthing pools, Public Health England (PHE) has revealed. 

New research, published in the journal Eurosurveillance, found that four out of six pools tested by PHE were contaminated with legionella, and three had other potentially harmful organisms including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause a wide range of infections.

Public Health England has written to all known suppliers of heated birthing pools, reinforcing that they are not to be used for home births. 

Heated birthing pools are filled in advance of labour, and include both a re-circulation pump and heater. 

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwices said: “Women planning birth at home using a traditional pool that is filled when the woman is in labour or using a fixed pool in an NHS unit are not affected by this alert and should not be concerned. 

“Birthing pools in hospitals are subject to stringent infection control procedures and monitoring. Home birthing pools filled during labour come with disposable liners and are only in place for a relatively short period of time, reducing opportunity for bacterial growth.” 

Professor Nick Phin, PHE's head of Legionnaires' disease said: “These latest results have strengthened already serious concerns about the safety of heated birthing pools in the home setting and the potential for contamination from a number of organisms which are recognised causes of infection, and pose particular risks to new born babies.

“PHE will review this recommendation if evidence is provided of a safe system for use in the home.  However at this point in time, it appears unlikely that hired-out, re-used, heated pools can be made safe to use for labour or birth in the home setting.

“We do not have concerns about purchased or hired pools that are filled from domestic hot water supplies at the onset of labour, provided that any pumps are used solely for pool emptying.”

A summary of the evidence is available to view on the Eurosurveillance website.