The following is written by Cheryl Carney, a certified nurse midwife with CHI Franciscan, for The Courier-Herald:
Having a baby is one of the most intensely personal events of a woman’s life. What many on the Plateau may not know is that there is a gem in our own community in the Family Birth Center at St. Elizabeth Hospital. Women have expansive options, from the type of provider they prefer, to their choice of pain relief, to how they want to labor and deliver, which now also includes water birth.
“As a certified nurse midwife with CHI Franciscan Health, I am honored to share in this experience with women, their partners and families,” said Cheryl Carney, CNM, ARNP. “Our patients have been asking about water birth. We are proud to offer women more options for natural childbirth that increase comfort and support the progression of labor.”
WHAT IS WATER BIRTH
Many women choose to spend at least part of their time in labor in a soaking tub. With a water birth, both labor and birth take place in the water. Water birth is popular abroad but not yet widely available in the U.S. CHI Franciscan is currently the only health system in the state offering water births. Water birth is available at St. Elizabeth Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center and the Midwifery Birth Center in Tacoma.
BENEFITS OF WATER BIRTH
During the first stage of labor, warm water can help mom relax and remain calm between contractions, which can help labor progress well and possibly even shorten labor time. The buoyancy of water can also make it easier for mom to move about and change positions. For women with low-risk pregnancies who choose to give birth in the water, water birth can facilitate a gentle transition to active pushing, reduce stress and pain and lower the risk of episiotomy.
“Water birth helps create a gentle, peaceful welcome to the world for baby,” said Carney. “You can tell when you walk into the room when a water birth is taking place. It is a very quiet process, very calming.”
WHO CAN USE WATER BIRTH
Healthy women, with low-risk pregnancies who wish to avoid the use of pain medications, may consider water birth. Those with high-risk pregnancies or certain health conditions are not candidates for water birth. Your provider can help you determine whether water birth may be an appropriate option for you.
“We do all we can to help you have your birth experience your way, recognizing our overall goal is a safe and healthy delivery and baby,” said Eduardo Duquez, Jr., MD, a CHI Franciscan board-certified family medicine physician who provides obstetrics. Dr. Duquez has also completed a fellowship in surgical obstetrics. “Of course, we know babies have the ultimate say in how the event will actually unfold. The great thing here is that we can prepare for all outcomes.”
OTHER LABOR COMFORT MEASURES: NITROUS OXIDE
St. Elizabeth was the first in the area to offer nitrous oxide, a relatively new option for pain management in labor. The laboring mom administers the dosage. The mixture of 50 percent nitrous oxide and 50 percent oxygen can help ‘take the edge off’ when timed with your contractions’ peak. Nitrous oxide does not affect the progression of labor. Intravenous pain medications and epidurals are also options at St. Elizabeth for additional pain relief.
Both water birth and nitrous oxide have been used across the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and New Zealand for decades. To date, studies have not shown adverse effects on Apgar scores – the newborn assessment of how well baby tolerated the birth – with either practice.
“Deciding where and how to labor, where and how to give birth, these are highly personal decisions,” Carney said. “It is my job to listen – with my head and my heart – to understand a woman’s wishes, while guiding her in the right direction to support a safe and satisfying delivery for mom and baby.”
Adds Dr. Duquez, “We support women’s choice in all aspects of childbirth. We are fortunate to have such progressive options locally. From provider type – certified nurse midwife, obstetrician, or like me, a family practice physician who delivers – to pain management options, you have choices to create the birth plan that fits your desired experience. We’re here to help Nature along as needed.”
Cheryl Carney is a certified nurse midwife and advanced registered nurse practitioner with Franciscan Women’s Health Associates in Enumclaw and Bonney Lake, part of CHI Franciscan Health: (360) 802-5760. Eduardo Duquez, Jr., MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician providing obstetrics with Franciscan Medical Clinic in Enumclaw, part of CHI Franciscan Health: (360) 825-6511. Both providers welcome new patients. See provider bios at chifranciscan.org. For childbirth preparation classes, or to schedule a tour of the Family Birth Center at St. Elizabeth Hospital, call 1 (888) 825-3227 or visit chifranciscan.org/familyeducation.