Utilizing warm water immersion for labor and birth is not a new concept. The first waterbirth was documented in 1803 in the book, Water Cures. The utilization of warm water (hydrotherapy) as a pain relief modality started at St John Medical Center in 1999. Around the world the benefits of hydrotherapy to relieve stress and pain has been recognized. French physician, Michel Odent, has become known for his support of waterbirth.
Consumer demand prompted St. John Medical Center and the obstetric department to develop a waterbirth program. To date over 300 women have utilized warm water for labor and over 200 women have given birth in the water. Waterbirth is reserved for the low risk woman. The experience has been described as a “natural epidural” by many women. Several tub options are available at St. John West Shore, including:
- Jacuzzi tubs
- Deep soaking tubs
- Disposable inflatable tubs
The benefits of utilizing hydrotherapy for labor and birth include a reduced perception of pain, freedom of movement, decreased energy expenditure, providing the mother a sense of comfort and calm and decreased interventions.
As with any therapy there are risks. Risks to the mother include increase of body temperature, lowering of blood pressure, increase in pulse, risk of infection and maternal dehydration.
Risks to the baby include hyponatremia (low sodium level), water aspiration, pneumonia, tearing of the umbilical cord and neonatal infection. To date there have been no complications related to waterbirth at St. John West Shore Medical Center. Currently we are offering voluntary participation in an investigational research trial to continue monitoring safety and quality.
Couples are encouraged to attend the waterbirth class offered at St. John Medical Center to be fully informed of the risks and the benefits of hydrotherapy