Newborn develops life-threatening infection after being delivered in a hot tub, leaving doctors to warn women about water births.
The baby girl in Canada was delivered full-term and was healthy at birth.
However, she was later hospitalised at eight-days-old with a high-fever, poor feeding and fussiness, and was then moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) because her organs were failing, the CMAJ Medical Journal reports.
The newborn was diagnosed with sepsis, a life-threatening response to an infection with ‘Legionella bacterium’ that was entered into her bloodstream, shares Huffington Post.
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The bacteria thrives in warm water, and the hot tub, which was filled days before her birth, may have created an ideal environment for an infection.
This baby’s experience “serves to highlight a severe and potentially fatal adverse neonatal outcome of underwater birth, especially when prefilled heated pools are used,” said lead author Dr. Michelle Barton of Western University in London, Ontario.
“Although freshly filling a hot tub may reduce the risk, serious infections can still potentially occur in newborns whose immune systems are quite weak,” Barton said by email.
The baby had been born underwater in a hot tub at home, supervised by a midwife. The hot tub had been filled three days before birth, a practice that can lead to increased concentrations of bacteria such as Legionella in the water as it thrives in temperatures from 20 to 42 degrees Celsius (68 to 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
After multiple tests, she was started on antibiotics to treat infection and began to improve. She spent five weeks on a ventilator in the ICU before she left the hospital.
The baby might have died, however, if she hadn’t been tested for Legionella and given an antibiotic regimen tailored to this diagnosis, Barton said.
Doctors in the U.S. and the UK advise against water birth in hot tubs or pools with jets because of an increased risk of contamination, and they also caution against filling the tubs in advance, researchers note.
Heated tubs are especially dangerous, noted Dr. Alastair Sutcliffe, a researcher at the Institute of Child Health at University College London who wasn’t involved in the case report.
“Warm water is an ideal environment for some bugs to grow,” Sutcliffe said by email. “Babies are not dolphins – those are born underwater – humans are land mammals.”
Related: The parents of a newborn boy who was deprived of oxygen for 15 minutes after a botched water birth have been awarded $13 million. Read that story HERE.
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