The challenge of conducting a waterbirth randomised controlled trial

Woodward, Joanne Lois (2012). The challenge of conducting a waterbirth randomised controlled trial. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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Waterbirths have been available in the United Kingdom as a method of pain relief for childbirth for over two decades but the neonatal safety of birth in water remains unevaluated. Opponents of a waterbirth randomised controlled trial state randomisation would undermine women’s childbirth experience. In addition, little is known about midwives’ attitudes to waterbirths. This thesis addresses some of the lack of evidence by reporting the findings of two studies which had three aims: to investigate the feasibility of a waterbirth RCT to assess the effects of a waterbirth on the neonate, to explore women’s thoughts about participation and whether randomisation affects women’s satisfaction with their childbirth experience and to assess midwives’ attitudes to waterbirths.
The first study involved a RCT with a ‘preference arm’. Eighty women were recruited: 60 in the RCT and 20 in the ‘preference arm’. Women were asked to complete questionnaires to assess their expectations for, and satisfaction with, their childbirth experience: at recruitment, after the birth and 6 weeks after the birth. Women in the randomised arm indicated willingness to partake but questioned midwives’ commitment to offering waterbirths.
A Q Methodology study was undertaken to identify factors which influence midwives’ (n=31) attitudes towards waterbirths. Four factors were identified: Motivation, Risk Assessment, Confidence, Safety.
Conclusion: It is feasible to organise a larger RCT to assess neonatal safety and women would be supportive. Strategies would be required to ensure midwives are confident and supportive of the waterbirth service.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Medical & Dental Sciences
School or Department: School of Health and Population Sciences, Department of Nursing
Funders: Other
Other Funders: The Royal College of Midwives, Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
R Medicine > RT Nursing


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