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Published on December 14, 2012

Water Births Gain Ground

After Michelle Macomber’s first childbirth experience left her with lasting pelvic floor injuries, she was looking for a gentler way to deliver her second baby.

“I pushed so hard, so fast,” recalls Michelle, “I ended up having to have surgery.”

As she contemplated birthing options — including water birth for their second child — her husband Marshall was adamant that a hospital setting was the only way to go for the anticipated arrival of their son.

Macomber Family

Marshall and Mitchell Macomber with
children, Josephine and Jasper.

I gave birth to a 9-pound, 8-ounce ballistic missile,” she says of baby Jasper, born Feb. 26 at Women’s Hospital. “It was two or three seconds [of pressure], and I delivered my own child into a tub of warm water.”

Marshall Macomber admits that he was initially skeptical of the idea of a water birth, thinking it was more appropriate for hippies than for him and his wife.

But Michelle wanted to be more closely connected to her childbirth experience.

“The water made such a difference with the weight of my own body,” says Michelle, explaining that pushing while she was in the water was significantly easier.

The weightlessness of water birth reduces the gravitational pull and harsh stresses of pushing during labor. Laboring in the water can relieve much of the pain associated with childbirth and allows the mother to use little or no medication.

More than three dozen women have opted to pursue a water birth in the last two years, according to Certified Nurse Midwife Vicki Latham from Central Carolina OB/GYN, a practice offering water birth. Nearly two dozen mothers actually have delivered in water at Women’s Hospital, while the others used the benefits of water for labor only and delivered by other means.

Other advantages beyond pain management include the comfort and mobility of the mother, reduced pressure on the abdomen, less expenditure of energy by the mother and deeper relaxation.

From Marshall Macomber’s perspective, the water birth experience was amazingly different. In addition to a midwife, the couple also used the services of a doula, a professional trained in childbirth who provided emotional, physical and informational support.

“I saw how these three strong women worked together in this situation,” Marshall recalls.

The midwife and doula provided intermittent monitoring to see if the baby was stressed. They checked the heartbeat while Michelle was in the tub with contractions. They reminded her to relax.

“Low intervention,” Latham says, “does not mean less attention to the patient.”

Latham says the focus is personalized, quality care. Certified nurse midwives, physicians and hospital staff work together to create a caring environment for the patient.

Women considering alternative birthing options should discuss their desires in advance with their OB/GYN provider so accommodations can be made if medically feasible.

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