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Alert after Legionnaires’ disease case

PHE advises temporary suspension of heated home birthing pools filled in advance of labour in home settings.

Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England have temporarily advised against the home use of birthing pools with built-in heaters and recirculation pumps, potentially filled up to 2 weeks in advance of the birth.

This follows a single case of Legionnaires’ disease identified in a baby born in this specific type of birthing pool at home.

The baby is currently receiving intensive care treatment in hospital.

Samples taken from the heated birthing pool used have confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria, which cause Legionnaires’ disease.

Tests are on-going to establish if it is the same strain which infected the baby. This is the first reported case of Legionnaires’ disease linked to a birthing pool in England.

NHS England has today issued a Patient Safety Alert rapidly notifying the healthcare system – and specifically midwives – to the possible risks associated with the use of these heated birthing pools at home.

The alert recommends that heated birthing pools, filled in advance of labour and where the temperature is maintained by use of a heater and pump, are not used for labour or birth. In the meantime, a full risk assessment into their use is being carried out.

The majority of birthing pools used at home are filled from domestic hot water systems at the time of labour – these birthing pools do not pose the same risk and are excluded from this alert.

There are no concerns about these types of pools as long as pumps are used solely to empty the pool and not for recirculation of warm water.

Professor Nick Phin, PHE’s head of Legionnaires’ disease, said: This is an extremely unusual situation, which we are taking very seriously. As a precaution, we advise that heated birthing pools, filled in advance of labour and where the temperature is then maintained by use of a heater and pump, are not used in the home setting, while we investigate further and until definitive advice on disinfection and safety is available.

“We do not have concerns about purchased or hired pools that are filled from domestic hot water supplies at the onset of labour, provided that any pumps are used solely for pool emptying.

“PHE and relevant local authorities are investigating the infection control measures required for this type of birthing pool and local authorities will be working with the small number of companies who supply these heated birthing pools for use at home.”

The 11th Annual Combatting Legionella & Water Treatment conference, will be taking place on 24-25 September at Holte Suite, Aston Villa Park, Birmingham.

The conference is a comprehensive and cutting-edge event that will ensure engineering and facilities management teams are able to prevent legionella bacteria and comply with water safety regulation.

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