FORT WAINWRIGHT, AK, UNITED STATES
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Bringing a new life into the world can be a stressful time in a woman’s life: What will the baby need? Will the baby be healthy? What can the mother do to help ensure the baby is healthy? and How can she help make delivery as painless as possible? are just some of the things a mother may stress about.
Even people without children have heard that having a baby can be a very painful process, but with modern technology and some good old-fashioned know how, today’s medical system gives women many options for pain management during labor and delivery.
For women who choose to deliver their babies naturally at Bassett Army Community Hospital, they can choose traditional medicated routes or, thanks to Maj. Elizabeth Nutter, a certified nurse midwife and chief of the advanced practice nurses at Bassett, they can choose an all-natural, drug-free water birth in the specialized water birthing suite.
“Way back in high school I had a project as a summer senior internship and I worked with midwives and I absolutely fell in love with what they did and said, ‘wow, this is my calling’,” Nutter said. “I have always been interested in unmedicated child birth, that’s where my passion has been throughout my whole career and water birth is a fabulous way to help women with pain management during labor.”
Nutter recently finished her doctorate in nurse practitioning with the focus on water birth and designed a protocol being implemented Army wide to support women who want an unmedicated water birth.
“I looked at all the evidence, the good, bad, the ugly, and really evaluated what’s out there to date so we can make sure we give our patients the best, safest care,” Nutter said.
According to Waterbirth International, a lot of mothers say water births are one of the easiest and most relaxing natural birth options. The water counter effects gravity and makes it easier for the mother to adjust positions to assist in delivery.
The warm water also helps to relieve some of the pain related with labor and delivery without the use of medication for pain management.
“We did 42 water births last year here at Bassett,” Nutter said. “Three out of the four midwives are trained in water births here.”
Water births, though still a controversial topic to some due to fear of possible infection, appeals to mothers for a variety of reasons and personal preferences.
“Some women are just really interested in non pharmacological methods during their labor, they just believe that’s the best for their baby,” Nutter said. “Some other women do it for the challenge, to see if they can do it without medication, others have had friends that have done it and said it was the best thing ever, so they want to try it.”
One of those women seeking a challenge was Katherine Armon, mother of three and wife to Army Spc. Nicholas Armon.
Armon said after her sons were born, the first with pain medications that wore off before delivery and the second with an epidural, she figured she was tough enough to give birth to her third child, a daughter, without any pain medications at all.
“I know my body and I knew I liked the bath to relieve pain so I figured that would be a great way to go with child birth delivery,” Armon said.
Armon said the pain level was dramatically lower with the water birth compared to the birth her first child.
“The pain wasn’t really that bad,” Armon said. “I was having a contraction as I got into the bath tub and when I sat down it was like the contraction was completely gone, I could barely feel it.”
Armon said another thing she didn’t really like for her first two children’s birth was that the medications made her sleepy and she could not remember exact details of the births.
“The thing I like best about a natural, drug-free child birth is that you remember everything,” she said. “It was actually really cool.”
Armon advises mothers to have a good support system in place to make sure your wishes are fulfilled because labor pains can cause you to say things you don’t really mean like asking for pain medication that would end the bath portion of the delivery, when you don’t really want or need it.
She said having a code word for letting your supporter know if you really do want pain medications instead of the natural water birth is a good idea.
So, how did Armon fare to the water birth challenge?
“Oh my gosh, it was amazing!” she said.
“They put a mirror on the bathtub floor so she could see (herself) when she came out,” she added. “I have pictures of her staring at herself in the mirror as she came out.”
Currently Fort Wainwright, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Fort Hood, Texas are the only Army medical centers that offer water birth programs.
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This work, Bassett makes a splash with water birthing opportunities, by SSG Patricia McMurphy, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.