On February 26th, the Midwives of New Jersey, the foremost experts in waterbirth in New Jersey, received an email saying that Lead had been found in Morristown Medical Center’s water supply. In response, the hospital had made the decision that, for the safety of the clients and their babies, there would be no water immersion or waterbirth until the water was safe again. My heart sank.
Waterbirth for Pain Management
For as long as I have been a midwife, I have been putting laboring women in water for pain management. I am convinced that water immersion is a real alternative to epidural anesthesia. Epidurals are a major intervention into the normal progress of labor and birth. The administration of epidural anesthesia routinely exposes mother and baby to even more intervention-things like Pitocin augmentation, bladder catheterization and vacuum extraction.
It was a really tough two and a half months without the tubs. Our clients, though extremely disappointed, took the news like the strong women they are. If the hospital would have put a moratorium on epidurals for that same period of time, chaos would have ensued and I guarantee women would have transferred to other hospitals within hours of the edict.
Planning for Other Methods of Pain Relief
We made a plan with our clients to help them get through labor. We made a plan for some of them to have homebirths where waterbirth was available. We discussed other non-pharmacological methods of pain relief like the shower, birth ball and doula support. And then we discussed the reality that without the tubs, pain medication was a real possibility. We felt it was important to let our clients off the hook for natural childbirth because we believe that water labors lead to more un-medicated deliveries.
We have looked at our statistics during the time that we could not allow waterbirth and this is what we found comparing the stats for the 2.5 months to the stats for 2015, when waterbirth was available the whole time.
(2/27/2015 – 5/14/2015)
Number of Births
24.6% – all at home
18.5% – all at home
As you can see, women do have a much more difficult time avoiding an epidural without water immersion. The epidural rate was nearly 7 times the rate from the previous year! This may not seem significant to the general public but the fact is, our clients hire us to help them avoid epidurals. We are thrilled that the cesarean rate did not vary significantly; this is a testimony to the determination of our clients to deliver vaginally and the expertise of midwives to facilitate vaginal births in all circumstances. We do know that pain is significantly reduced with the water immersion and we know that women really love their births in the tub.
Overall, the 2 months without the tubs confirmed what we already knew-water labor and waterbirth are good alternatives to the epidural for women desiring to birth their babies under their own power.
We are thrilled to have waterbirth back and hope we never have to practice without them again!