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Blogger’s Hospital Won’t Allow Birthing Balls

March 20, 2007

Katie Allison Granju, Knoxville blogger and author of Attachment Parenting, is scoping out locations for her upcoming birth. Katie has specific concerns due to a genetic condition, but also has certain criteria for how she’d like to labor, and has hit several barriers in finding what she needs, as described in this post. Katie would like to labor in water, but the hospital only has two rooms with tubs. She suggested renting one and bringing it in, but was told by the head of nursing that they only allow women to labor in water “if their water hasn’t broken and they aren’t dilated.” In other words, they don’t allow women to labor in water. Why a healthcare professional who presumably knows what labor is would tell a woman that she can labor in water if her water hadn’t broken and she isn’t dilated is beyond me. Nurse Cranky took things one step further, telling her she can’t use a birthing ball because she might fall off, and it’s a liability issue. Katie also describes the hospital’s “support” for women who don’t want epidurals – “support” to them apparently means “we won’t push drugs on you,” but doesn’t seem to include any techniques or strategies for helping laboring women otherwise cope with pain.

I did a medical literature search yesterday to try to find instances of birthing ball injuries or descriptions of liability concerns, but found no such evidence. This doesn’t mean it has never happened, but it obviously isn’t being discussed much in medical publications. Most of these balls, also used for physical therapy and exercise, are pretty sturdy, and are built with sitting, bending, and stretching on them in mind. They’re also low to the ground and flexible, so a fall off of a birthing ball would likely be less dramatic than falling off of a bed, chair, or toilet. One commentary from The Practising Midwife, The Risk-Managed Birth Ball,” mentions another U.S. hospital that didn’t allow birth balls, because “they haven’t been risk-assessed,” and makes the point, “Instead of simply risk-managing the things that might help women in labour, surely what we really need to address is the culture of fear and litigation which has somehow enshrouded pregnancy and birth, and the ways in which we can break this down, for the sake of everybody concerned.”

Kudos to Katie for pushing the issue and standing up against silliness. The dismissive attitude of the hospital staff tells me we have a way to go before the concerns of laboring women are taken seriously.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joyce Holena permalink
    May 21, 2007 3:10 am

    Searching for research ‘problems/cautions on birhting balls’, I came across your comment. Correct in your saying “little research-caution is noted about these balls”.
    It is in light of the recent birth/complications of my nefew only 3 days ago. I question the use of the birthing ball. My nefew was ER C-section after noticing he had his forehead was jarred in a position on the mothers bones. Thinking it was the top of his head the staff required that she push and even forcably opened her cervix, hoping to correct his position and tried to pull him. His heart beat went up, requiring the ER C-section. Oxygen level lowered in his blood 24 hrs later, brain surgery the following morning. Results conclude he had a stroke, blood accumilated around the brain. Is it possable that the roation of the pelvis was enough to reposition the baby in such a way that his forehead was cought on the upper bone, this causing a cramped neck, loss of blood flow to the brain…stroke, blood accumulating around his brain from the injury? (I’m questioning) Stable we hope for a full recovery, they said the report is that he will challenged with motor skills/learning ablility.
    I believe it may be possable that his head was repositioned by the pelvic rotation using the ball. I am in search of studys on this equipment.

  2. May 23, 2007 11:11 am

    I haven’t seen any studies mentioning the specific complication you’re interested in, but will try to look around and see if anything new has popped up.


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