Yellowknife women waiting for water births at new Stanton hospital

Expecting mothers hoping for a water birth at the new Stanton Territorial Hospital are learning the new service hasn't been implemented yet, and there's no timeline for when the tubs will be available.

None of the birthing tubs have been used, citing training and no policies, health authority says

A birthing tub in the new Stanton Territorial Hospital. The birthing room was designed in consultation with midwifery staff from Fort Smith. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Women looking to labour and deliver their babies in birthing tubs at the new Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife are being told they can't, at least for now, because staff need training and there are no policies for using them.

The birthing tubs, located in modern birthing suites on the obstetrics floor, are among the new services to be offered at the newly built hospital. The birthing rooms were designed in consultation with midwifery staff from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

But nearly two months after opening in late May the tubs have never been used, according to the N.W.T.'s Health and Social Services Authority.

"Water births are a new service that we have not yet implemented," said spokesperson David Maguire in an email. The tubs were never intended to be used right away because no policies have been developed to use them safely and staff need training, he said.

Michelle Haigh had hoped to use one of the new birthing tubs at Stanton Territorial Hospital during the birth of her second child. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

The news came as a surprise to Michelle Haigh who first learned about the birthing tubs in a prenatal class. She was expecting her second child.

"Birthing tub, a room with great views. We were quite excited," said Haigh, who used a birthing tub and water therapy when delivering her first child in South Africa.

"It was a very relaxing, very soothing," said Haigh. She said the tub allowed her husband to be more involved.

Haigh only learned a month before her due date that her birth plan would change.

"I was quite disappointed," she said about the tubs not being available. "It would have been far better just to say they are not an option for us to use from the beginning."

Though Haigh said her disappointment didn't linger as she received "fantastic" care and walked away with a healthy baby girl.

Water is a huge source of relaxation in the birth experience.- Jess Bourassa, Yellowknife birth doula

The health authority says if someone requests to use the birthing tubs they are told it's not an option at this time.

Implementation must be "done safely," said Maguire. 

The health authority could not say when training for staff would begin or when policies on using the tubs would be in place.

Jess Bourassa is a birth doula in Yellowknife (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Yellowknife birth doula, Jess Bourassa, helps support women and their families before, during and after birth. She says there's been a lot of " buzz" about the new tubs. She says many of her clients weren't aware the tubs weren't useable.

She says it makes sense the health authority is taking its time.

"It's a lot when we are involving water, people in and out of tubs. There's a lot of extra water on the ground, that's a safety issue," she said.

Bourassa anticipates once the tubs are up and running they'll be in high demand.

"Water is a huge source of relaxation in the birth experience," she said. "Water therapy — it makes us feel better. A lot of women gravitate toward that."


Kate Kyle is a reporter for CBC North based in Yellowknife. Find her on Twitter @_kate_kyle


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