Manual handling in birthing pools

Incident reports show there are manual handling risks to midwives and auxiliary staff who assist with births in pools from the routine tasks they carry out.

A report, Manual handling risks to midwives associated with birthing pools: Literature review and incident analysis has been produced which shows that the majority of incident data reviewed were manual handling related. The manual handling risks are likely to result from the position of the mother in the pool, the position of the midwife whilst undertaking tasks at the birthing pool, and when actively supporting a mother's entry / exit into the pool or the mother using the midwife as a support whilst entering / exiting the pool.

The research identified a range of measures that may help in reducing manual handling risks, including:

  • Design of the birthing pool - this should allow the midwife to get as close as possible to the mother and minimise bending and reaching over 
  • The environment - this should be designed to reduce slip, trip and manual handling risks and enable safe access to the pool
  • Equipment - you should determine what equipment is required for routine and emergency moving and handling.  Involving midwives in the specification and selection of equipment helps to ensure equipment is suitable and is used appropriately
  • Individual factors - such as the midwifes' fitness and health; their physical capability; whether they are pregnant; their working time; and, fatigue
  • Other tasks - you should consider other tasks carried out associated with the birthing pool such as: filling; emptying; cleaning and maintaining the pool; and, emergency evacuation
  • Training - Staff should have instruction, information and training to enable them to safely carry out the tasks they undertake and use the equipment provided

The research also identified appropriate procedures that should be in place for dealing with emergency evacuation from the pool.  These include:

  • identifying what emergency situations could arise
  • the degree to which the mother may or may not be able to participate
  • how to get the mother out of the pool
  • the number of staff/ helpers required
  • how to call for additional help

Equipment to help in emergency evacuation might include an evacuation net, floatation aids, a slide sheet, a pre-positioned height-adjustable bed or trolley, or suitable hoist and slings.

Further information on the findings of this research can be found in the full report.

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Updated 2021-09-29