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Waterbirth option added to Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital

Waterbirths are a growing trend in this area — but not a new one by any means.

According to Waterbirth International (, a waterbirth is a method of giving birth that involves immersion in warm water to deliver a baby. It promotes a smoother transition for the baby from the amniotic sac by being delivered into a similar environment.

Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH) now offers waterbirths to their expecting moms.

Waterbirthing has been around since the 1960s in Russia as a way to ease the transition from the womb to the outside world, and to limit the effects of any possible birth trauma.

Sherry Gettinger of SGCMH’s Women’s Health and Childbirth Center explained how the hospital began its waterbirths in September of last year.

“We had a mom come to us who had previously delivered in water in another state,” she said.

SGCMH was open to the idea, but they had no equipment.

“She had a home birth with a midwife before, so she brought her own equipment.”

Dr. Lamb, the delivery doctor at SGCMH and other staff researched the waterbirth method. They learned there are physical needs as well as personal reasons to be considered when choosing a waterbirth, such as pelvic or abdominal pain.

According to the staff at SGCMH, the first waterbirth was a learning experience. The staff was scheduled to attend a waterbirth seminar in Chicago, Ill. before the due date of the first mom. However, three days before the seminar, she went into labor early and they weren’t able to attend.

“She taught us throughout the process,” Gettinger said of the first mom to deliver in water at SGCMH.

Prenatals, also known as pregnant women, learn of waterbirthing several ways throughout their pregnancy.

“When outpatients come in, we get to know them ahead of time,” Gettinger explained. “We always tell them that they should have a plan A, B and even C,” she laughed.

The hospital offers waterbirth, but the decision is always left to the mother.

“We discuss the risks and benefits with them,” Gettinger said.

Many women in labor find that being in water helps to relax and relieve pain. Some women prefer to stay in the water and deliver, while others only labor in the water and deliver out of the tub.

Most have the same questions and concerns about waterbirths: Blood loss and infection are the two most common.

“We place three signs on the bottom (of the pool),” Gettinger explains. “When you can’t see the signs clearly anymore, we have reason to be worried about blood loss.”

So far, that hasn’t happened at SGCMH.

As long as the mother doesn’t have any open lesions, uncontrolled high blood pressure and the baby isn’t under distress on the monitor, the mother can have a waterbirth.

“Everything that comes out, the baby has been sharing with the mother the entire pregnancy anyway,” she said.

The water is sanitized, with no germs or viruses growing in the warm water.

There is not a specific waterbirthing room yet. However the eco-friendly birthing tub is very mobile.

A cd player is available and moms are encouraged to bring their own relaxing music. Although the room isn’t huge, there can be as many people as the mother wants in the room.

Maria was the first to deliver after the staff went to the training.  Rottler was a second time mom who said she was able to handle the pain with waterbirthing. “I was able to stay focused and on task. With my first, I couldn’t deal with the pain,” she said. “The buoyancy of the water dispensing pressure around my body was so helpful.”

When a woman is admitted in labor, she is examined the same as any prenatal is.

All women are encouraged to walk, use an exercise ball, or whatever they feel is comfortable during labor.

“We encourage them to rock in a rocking chair if they aren’t able to walk,” Gettinger said.

Fetal heart tones as well as the mothers are taken often, depending on the stages of labor.

Women who are going to have a waterbirth are placed into the water late in labor.

The water is kept between 94-100 degrees. There is a floating duck thermometer that tells the nurses what the temperature is.

“Because we keep the room and water so warm, we encourage everyone in the room to stay hydrated,” Gettinger explained. “It is crucial for the mothers to drink lots of fluids.”

When admitted, the mother is given an IV set up, but no IV. The IV is nearby, but only used if needed, such as if she does get dehydrated.

Natanja is a first time mom who delivered her daughter in water.

“I brought my own exercise ball, because I knew I was much taller and theirs wouldn’t work,” she explained.

“For Natanja, because she is taller, what she found to work the best was resting her elbows, leaning on the front desk,” Gettinger said.

Throughout her 15 hour labor, she walked the birthing hall, used the exercise ball to relieve pressure and even took a shower.

“I just couldn’t sit. It hurt too bad,” she said.

At one point, Natanja thought she was ready to get into the water.

“I didn’t think it could get worse,” she said. “But once I was in the water, I realized that it was slowing my labor, so I got back out.”

“We don’t allow them to enter the water right away because the water has such a relaxation factor, that it might stop birth,” Gettinger said.

She took a shower at that point, because she wanted the water calming affect, but wasn’t quite ready for the birthing pool.

“The environmental change from air to water is a natural oxytocin surge for women,” Gettinger stated.

Oxytocin is a hormone released in large amounts during labor to facilitate birth and breastfeeding as listed by Wikipedia.

Once the mothers enter the water for the final time, they are examined by the nurse and the doctor is called.

“He comes and sees how they are doing, and tells them he will be right outside when they are ready,” Gettinger said. “The same as if they are delivering in a bed.”

While in labor, mothers are able to move more freely in the water, and can use whatever position works best. Gettinger said that women change position frequently, and their body takes them to the most comfortable way.

Once the baby is delivered, the cord is not cut until it stops pulsating up to 20 minutes after birth. This method is called a Lotus birth or umbilical nonseverance.  “We place the baby on the mom’s chest,” Gettinger explains. “We use a towel, continually dipped in the warm water to keep the temperature of the baby up. When the mom and baby have a minute to regroup, we try to get them to breastfeed, with the cord still attached,” she said.

“If they don’t want to breastfeed, we do encourage nipple stimulation,” Gettinger explains. “So far, all of the 6 mothers who have had waterbirths have chosen to breastfeed.”

Breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract back to normal size after birth, which stops postpartum bleeding.

“Once the cord stops pulsating, we cut the cord and place the baby on the table and allow the father, if he wants to clean the baby.”

Fathers are also welcome to get into the water with the mother, if they wish.

Mothers are encouraged to talk to their health care provider when considering a waterbirth. They are also encouraged to read and learn as much as possible on waterbirth. The nursing staff of the Women’s Health and Childbirth Center at SGCMH will meet with you to discuss any concerns you may have and to allow you to tour their facility. For more information, call SGCMH at 573-883-2751 or visit Waterbirth International at

“When you look at research on waterbirthing, it allows you to look at labor with a fresh eye,” Gettinger concluded.

Jessica Crepps is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. You may reach her at 573-431-2010 ext. 143 or

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