An inquest has opened into the death of a new born baby in a birthing pool at Cavan General Hospital.

The court heard how Harry Eccles had inhaled water during labour and died shortly after birth in February of last year.

Dr Peter Kelehan, pathologist, said the baby died from what he described as 'acute near drowning'.

Giving evidence, a midwife said the baby had breathing difficulties after being delivered. He was transferred to the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street where he died a short time later.

The court heard how he had suffered brain damage.

Harry's mother Gina Eccles, 22, from Virginia in Cavan, was in court with her mother and other family members.

After the death, an internal inquiry carried out by the Health Service Executive found no cause for concern with the care provided during pregnancy, labour and birth.

The HSE also commissioned an external review of the use of birthing pools. The report by independent British consultants noted that there were no national standards for water births in the Republic and called for extra support for midwives.

However, it found that existing protocols among hospital staff at Cavan General Hospital were of a high standard. The consultants also recommended the resumption of water births.

However, the use of birthing pools during labour has been suspended at both Cavan General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. These two centres are among the first in the country to offer such a service to pregnant women.

Around ten births have taken place in birthing pools at Cavan General Hospital since their introduction in 2004.

The inquest has been adjourned until 27 July, to enable lawyers for the hospital gather independent expert advice on the findings of the pathologist.