Water World, Part 3: Water Births

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by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times

A NEARLY PAINLESS DELIVERY for mom and a gentle welcome into the world for baby make water births sound almost too good to be true. But it’s all legit, according to Barbara Harper, RD, CD, CCE, founder of Waterbirth International and author of Gentle Birth Choices (Inner Traditions). Harper first gave birth in water in 1984 while working as a nurse in a holistic medical clinic.

“From the moment my son was born I knew I had to tell people about this,” Harper says.

by Allan Richter and Linda Melone
from Energy Times

 


 

Water is within us and around us. It is sustenance and recreation.
From actor Ted Danson’s activism on behalf of oceans to the allure of boating,
here are some perspectives on life-giving H20.

Stay tuned for Water World, Part 4 on safe drinking water next week.


A NEARLY PAINLESS DELIVERY for mom and a gentle welcome into the world for baby make water births sound almost too good to be true. But it’s all legit, according to Barbara Harper, RD, CD, CCE, founder of Waterbirth International and author of Gentle Birth Choices (Inner Traditions). Harper first gave birth in water in 1984 while working as a nurse in a holistic medical clinic. “From the moment my son was born I knew I had to tell people about this,” Harper says.

Harper now works full time educating people all over the world about the desirability of giving birth in water. “In 1991, only two hospitals in the United States had water birthing programs,” she notes. “By 2007, we had 130 hospitals with water birth protocols in place with an additional 600 with protocol for water labor (in which women labor in water but give birth traditionally).”

“In the beginning I’d have only home-birth midwives attending my seminars, but now doctors regularly show up to learn about water births,” Harper adds.

Water births ease pain by the principles of hydrotherapy, in which altering water temperature and pressure serves therapeutic purposes. In a labor free of medication or other intervention, the woman can “go into her natural hormonal flow,” which includes the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reducers, says Harper. “It’s the best non-narcotic, non-pharma­cological pain/comfort management approach.”

 

Water births ease pain by the principles of hydrotherapy, in which altering water temperature and pressure serves therapeutic purposes.

 

When she’s fully immersed in the water, the mother gets a surge of oxytocin, a hormone involved in the birthing process that facilitates a sense of bonding and contentment, accompanied by endorphins, says Harper. The tub must be deep enough—18 inches deep or more—to allow the mother’s body to become buoyant.
As a result, the mother experiences significantly shorter labor and less pain, with less need for pain-relieving drugs. Water births resuit in fewer episiotomies, surgical procedures designed to avoid vaginal tearing. In addition, the mother’s body is in a more vertical position, which means gravitational pull can allows the baby to descend more easily. “The baby takes its first breath once it hits the open air,” says Harper.

Results are different for each woman, but on average, water births reduce pain up to 50%, says Debbie Boucher, APN, CNM, a licensed certified midwife in Libertyville, Illinois. “Plus it’s a more gentle entry into the world for the baby,” says Boucher.

Barring unique health considerations, any woman can have a water birth, says Boucher. “You don’t need any special preparation or training,” she says. “You learn everything you need to know from your midwife.” To find a qualified midwife seek a midwife licensed in the state where they’re practicing, she adds. “There’s currently no specific training for water birthing.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics neither promotes nor denounces water births, says Harper. “Their stance is there’s no evidence of potential harm to the baby or any known benefits.” The AAP’s website states: “Delivery in water does not substantially increase the risk of death or of admission to a neonatal unit, but we cannot exclude smaller differences.” The group notes water aspiration or a snapped umbilical cord as potential problems but could not adequately investigate further without available data.

“It’s a difficult thing to randomize and control, so to get large numbers is virtually impossible,” says Harper.

Spreading the word about the benefits of water births remains a major challenge. “The acceptance of water births requires a paradigm shift of humungous proportions,” says Harper.

 

Copyright Energy Times. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


To learn more about natural births and midwifery, read part of an extensive interview with Ina May Gaskin from The Sun.  In it, Gaskin, who is known as the “midwife of modern midwifery”, talks about the medicalization of giving birth and the subsequent increased death rate of new mothers.

 

“If we put horses, goats, and cows through the restrictions and indignities that most laboring women in U.S. hospitals are routinely subjected to, the animals would surely have as many complications as we do. The astonishing thing to me is that we have come to believe that our human bodies are not as well designed for birth as other mammals’ are. Really it’s our brains that can pose problems: we alone among mammals have the ability to scare and confuse ourselves about birth.”

-Ina May Gaskin, midwife and author of four books on natural childbirth

 


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