July 5th, 2002

Contact:   Jennifer Kurczek
                Community Relations Director

                (920)361-5481 or jkurczek@partnershealth.org


Water births an innovative option for mothers-to-be at Berlin Memorial Hospital


 After two fairly difficult deliveries, Lorie Daye of Wautoma knew she wanted the birth of her third child to be a more comfortable, enjoyable process.


After she and her husband, Robert, discovered they were pregnant, Lorie consulted with her physician, M. Jean Bruce, MD, of Associated Family Physicians, about the various birthing alternatives available at Berlin Memorial Hospital. It was then she learned that delivering her baby in water was one of the options available through the hospital’s progressive Family Birth Center.


After the Dayes researched the method and weighed the alternatives, Jordan Daye was the second baby to be born in the birthing tub at Berlin Memorial Hospital on December 10, 2000.


"It was an absolutely wonderful option for me," said Daye. "It helped me relax during labor which conserved my energy for delivery."


Just like after a hard day's work, slipping into a tub during the difficult labor and delivery process can be very relaxing for patients, Dr. Bruce said.


"Water has a calming effect," she explained. "That calmness may prevent adrenaline from releasing which can help speed labor." Although laboring and delivering in the water may promote relaxation, Dr. Bruce said it won't take away pain altogether.


Daye said her experience delivering in the water was much more enjoyable than her two traditional births. With her first two children, she labored for more than 20 hours and both infants were positioned to make for a long and difficult delivery. "After all the work, I was very tired and didn't have the urge to push," she remembers. "The physical and emotional healing after those births took more than six weeks."


Having recently given birth in the water to her fourth child, Aaron Lloyd, Daye believes the buoyancy of the water helped her get in a better position to deliver.


"It's very difficult to change positions when you're pregnant," she said. “But in the water, without the effects of gravity, I was able to move around very easily to find a position that worked for me."


Since Daye had an easier delivery in the water, she said she was able to better bond with her third and fourth children. "It was a much easier recovery so I was able to concentrate on the babies, not on my pain."


Although the birthing option is fairly new to the Midwest, more than 150,000 women around the world have birthed their babies in water in the last 20 years. In fact, the first documented water birth occurred in France in 1803. "It's not new and it's not all that different. It's another birthing option that's a lot less interventional," said Dr. Bruce.


According to the Berlin Memorial's Family Birth Center Manager Pam Mork, RN, BSN, offering another

option for expectant moms was the reason the Center investigated the delivery of babies in water. "We're not trying to become a birthing center that's exclusive to water births," said Mork. "We simply wanted to give women another choice. We're here to offer a personalized birth experience and this is one more option."


The hospital has been offering the service for 18 months and has delivered about 10 babies in water at the time of this article’s printing. According to Mork, Berlin Memorial Hospital is one of the few healthcare facilities in the area to offer water births.


The births take place in a whirpool tub which the hospital installed several years ago to help women relax during labor. After several patients requested to deliver in the soothing warm waters of the whirpool, Dr. Bruce attended a training session to help her become more informed about the birthing option. From a nursing perspective, Family Birth Center staff participated in extra training sessions geared toward assisting water birth patients.


Mork said besides drafting a policy, which outlines the labor and delivery procedure in the water, and purchasing a few basic pieces of equipment, the transition to offer water births at the BMH Family Center required less effort than expected to make them a reality. "The process of delivering and caring for a newborn in the water is very similar to having a land birth," she said. "It's a very natural process." 


In fact, Dr. Bruce calls the birthing option a "hands-off process" for the medical staff. After the mother pushes the baby out, the physician catches the baby under water and slowly brings the baby up to the mother's chest. Physiologically, the baby isn't able to take his or her first breath under water and usually does that once on the mother's chest.


Mork said any woman considering a water birth should discuss it with her physician. She also recommends moms-to-be contact the Family Birth Center, 920-361-5521, so they can have a tour of the facility, take a look at the tub and learn about the water birth option. "We want everyone to be as informed as possible about the intricacies of water birth," she said.


Even with plenty of information, many women may try laboring in the tub and then decide to get out for delivery. "Women need to find their own place for labor and delivery," said Dr. Bruce. "Delivering in the water is just one more option that we offer our patients." 


The Family Birth Center at Berlin Memorial Hospital, a member of Community Health Network, welcomes more than 200 babies each year. In addition to the private whirlpool for relaxation during labor and water births, the Center features comfortable, homelike rooms, and a philosophy of promoting personal-centered care.