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.

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.

Read more: Amazing water birth video and images


“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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  • Such a terrible thing to have happened – hope all ended well.


  • Oh goodness, that is very concerning.


  • I don’t understand why the tub was filled so early when labour lasts for such a long time for most people. Also, if you are going to do a water birth it’s probably much better to be in a hospital where everything is sterilised. I don’t believe in at home births because anything can go wrong. My son was born by emergency caesarean after his heart rate was dropping- if I had of been at home he could have died.


  • Why would you want to fill the tub early? I hope the little one will be okay with no lasting effects.


  • Oh no, this is so terrible and so tragic. I don’t like hot tubs or spas for the reasons of bacteria etc. so I had never imagined someone would give birth in one.

    • They have to be meticulously cleaned to remove bacteria. I will not use a spa at a hotel if it is not thoroughly cleaned. Run it through once and if looks dirty – it is not used.


  • A water birth never appealed to me. But even if you do want one, why fill the tub so long before the birth?


  • Why would you fill the tub with hot water days before her birth ? That bounds to create an ideal environment for an infection !


  • It seems that it was the KIND of water birth that played. Big part here.


  • How scary!


  • Women should be told of all the pros and cons of all types of deliveries so that they can make an informed choice.


  • Why did they leave the hot tub filled with water for 3 days?? :-(


  • Glad the little one recovered and information and awareness assists people with making informed choices.


  • I would have loved to have a water birth in the hospital but got beaten to the bath tub, I am not a fan of home births but that is only because I had very high risk pregnancies


  • Fear mongering BS. This is really disappointing. This is sad for the parents yes but at it has nothing to do with safe water birthing practices. Many hospitals and birthing centres now include water birthing as an option because it is safe. This is a tragic incident but is does not in anyway suggest water birthing is unsafe it suggests letting water sit in you bathroom for 3 days before birthing is a bad idea and unsafe.


  • This is horrible. But the headline is misleading. The water birth didn’t lead to the baby developing sepsis – the mother birthed at home and the tub was full of the same water for 3 days! That’s how the bacteria got in and bred. I’ve never had a water birth or home birth – but all ones I’ve heard about are the baths are filled when mum is in active labour. It makes no sense what so ever to give birth in water that’s been static for 3 days! Refill the tub.


  • I don’t understand why mums would want to have a birth at home in water etc. I much prefer the hospital in case anything goes wrong help is on hand

    • I birthed my babies at hospital in water… Just because it is a water birth doesn’t mean it has to be at home.


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