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Is water birth in jeopardy in Illinois?

August 23, 2010

Me after welcoming my third child, Silas, in the tub at BroMenn Medical Center in April 2009

The birth community here in Illinois has been buzzing lately trying to get straight answers on the State’s stance on water birth.  A letter went out from the Illinois Department of Public Health which prompted at least some of our local hospitals to stop offering water births.  The reason that many are citing is the risk of infection and that all of this may have been in response to a mom getting a bad infection in Chicago.

If this sounds kind of hazy- that’s because it is.  I haven’t actually seen a copy of this letter and do not know if it specifically orders hospitals to stop allowing hospitals, if it merely states their position on it and leaves it up to the hospital themselves or if the letter was just letting the hospitals know of the risk of infection and this was their response.  I would really love to know what it says exactly so I could give my clients a straight answer but, alas, I do not.

I have been told that you can write a letter to the following address to let them know your thoughts on the subject-

535 W. Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62761
Attn: 5th Floor Director’s Office

but isn’t it kind of hard to respond to something we’ve never seen?

If anyone has any information on this, please let us know.  It would be awesome if someone had an actual copy of this letter…

One of Bloomington/Normal’s local doulas, Lauren Breyer with Wise Women Birth Services, spoke with the IDPH and shared what she found out on their facebook page.  Here is what she said,
Just spoke with someone at the IDPH, it was very informative. They said that the IDPH doesn’t have, and has never had an official position on waterbirth. The letter sent out last week wasn’t a “cease & desist” nor was it an official position but rather a request sent out to all hospitals in IL for information about their stats on waterbirth outcomes (including infection rates). IDPH does think it poses an added risk of infection, but at this time they are gathering data in order to learn more. How long it would take to develop an official position? They said, maybe a month but would depend on how quickly they received responses from the hospitals.”

I’m happy to report that Advocate Bromenn has begun allowing water births again.  Starting in July of this year, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center also began allowing women to birth in the tub so now both of our local hospitals here in Bloomington/Normal facilitate waterbirths!  Now, just because the hospital allows them doesn’t mean that your care provider will agree to deliver in the tub so if you are interested in this option be sure to discuss it with them.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010 1:14 pm

    My thought is that its only the 12 Advocate facilities in our state. We know so many doulas in Central IL and beyond and no one has made a peep about this. And you and I both know they’d be peeping by now! Also, IDPH has not issued a position paper about this, which is their standard procedure. Or maybe I’m just wishing its not the whole state? Either way, I hope we get more info soon!

    • jessicabirthdoula permalink*
      August 23, 2010 8:09 pm

      I hope you’re right. I have heard conflicting information from different sources and have been told that the IDPH has actually issued a position paper- but again this is all rumor and I’ve yet to SEE anything concrete.

  2. Lauren permalink
    August 23, 2010 8:11 pm

    I called again today and still no one seemed to know anything! So frustrating! Time will tell, I suppose!

  3. August 24, 2010 1:41 pm

    WOW, you actually waterbirths happening in the hospital? Excellent! A statement from the Department of Health may convince a hospital or physician to not “allow” waterbirth out of liability concerns over an adverse outcome (infection), but such a statement cannot legally prohibit waterbirth. Laws are made in the state code/regs and any changes involve a lengthy legislative process.

    • jessicabirthdoula permalink*
      August 24, 2010 3:24 pm

      Erin- thank you so much for the info on the relationship between the Dept. of Health and the hospitals; that actually makes a lot of sense and explains why one of our hospitals has decided to stop offering water births and the other has not. We are very fortunate to have the option of water birth and it is one that many have fought, hence the frustration.

      • September 12, 2010 7:08 am

        If you don’t mind me asking…which hospital stopped offering them? Is it in the B/N area? I had a water birth at Bromenn almost two years ago and now my husband and I are ready to start trying for another baby. I was hoping to have my pick of hospitals since our new insurance covers both.

      • jessicabirthdoula permalink*
        September 12, 2010 7:21 am

        Jen- I updated the post 🙂

  4. Sami permalink
    November 28, 2012 11:10 am

    I was born in the tub myself. Me and my mom were just fine after everything. In fact I was the only kid out of 5 she didnt need stitches. I think water births are the way to go. The water makes it easier on your skin to stretch and helps take some pressure off you. Now I know many women would love to go through giving birth and not needing stitches.

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