Cluett (2006) Randomised controlled trail of labouring in water compared with standard of aumgentation for management of dystocia in first stage of labour

Introduction to Water Immersion in Labor

Dystocia, characterized by slower than expected labor progression, is a common challenge in childbirth, particularly for nulliparous (first-time) mothers. It leads to increased medical interventions, such as caesarean sections and instrumental deliveries, extending hospital stays. Traditional management of dystocia involves augmentation, typically with amniotomy (breaking the water) and intravenous oxytocin to stimulate contractions. However, this approach is often associated with increased stress for the mother, potentially exacerbating labor difficulties. An alternative, less invasive approach involves laboring in water, which aims to provide a more relaxing environment, potentially easing the labor process.

Study Design and Population

A randomized controlled trial was conducted to compare the effects of water immersion during the first stage of labor with standard augmentation methods on nulliparous women experiencing dystocia. The study involved 99 women at low risk of complications, divided into two groups: one laboring in a birth pool and the other receiving standard augmentation.

Main Findings

The study found that women who labored in water were less likely to require epidural analgesia compared to those who underwent standard augmentation (47% vs. 66%). There was no significant difference in the rates of operative delivery between the two groups. However, the water immersion group showed a lower rate of augmentation and overall obstetric interventions. Notably, while there was an increase in neonatal unit admissions among the water immersion group, there were no significant differences in neonatal health markers such as Apgar scores or infection rates.

Implications for Labor Management

Laboring in water presents a viable option for managing dystocia, potentially reducing the need for medical interventions like epidural analgesia and augmentation. This approach aligns with a more natural, less medicalized childbirth experience, offering an alternative for pain management and labor progression. While the study’s findings are promising, they also highlight the need for careful monitoring of neonatal outcomes following water immersion during labor.


For nulliparous women experiencing slow labor progression, water immersion offers a beneficial alternative to traditional augmentation methods, reducing the need for certain medical interventions without prolonging labor or increasing operative deliveries. This approach could enhance maternal satisfaction and comfort during labor, contributing to a more positive childbirth experience.

Keywords: Water Immersion, Labor, Dystocia, Nulliparous Women, Epidural Analgesia, Operative Delivery, Augmentation, Maternal Satisfaction, Neonatal Outcomes.

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