Wellness and Healthy Living: BJC Medical Group


Published on Monday, July 21, 2014

Hydrotherapy for Labor Support and Water Birth

Jacqueline Turner, MD

A bath can be so relaxing, even for a woman in labor.

For a laboring mother interested in low-intervention labor support, hydrotherapy is an age-old method of managing pain and anxiety.
“Immersion therapy can be very effective for the right person,” says Jacqueline Turner, MD. “But, because labor is unpredictable, any laboring mom needs to remain open to physician and nursing guidance throughout her labor.”

To deliver in the birthing tub at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the mom and fetus must have no complications during the course of labor.

Amanda Norton, 29, lived in St. Louis when she delivered all three of her children at Barnes-Jewish Hospital with Dr. Turner -- using water as her only “medication.”

“I wanted a natural childbirth without medicine or interventions, and I knew my body was capable of doing it,” says Norton. “With my first child, six years ago, the water was the only thing that soothed my pain. My second child was even born in the water.”

Water immersion can promote relaxation and provide supportive measures for pain management in the labor and delivery unit with hydrostatic hydrothermal and hydrokinetic effects for laboring women:

Hydrostatic -- pressure produced via immersion in water

Hydrothermal -- water temperature up to 100.4 degrees

Hydrokinetic -- release of endogenous hormones

“For some women, water immersion during labor can offer excellent pain relief while still allowing the mom to be fully mobile and in control of her movements and positioning,” says Rosanna Gray-Swain, MD, Dr. Turner’s practice partner.

To use the birthing tub, West End Ob/Gyn requires that families make the appropriate patient-physician agreement during a prenatal visit.

“I did a lot of research and decided on water birth because it seems to be a more gentle way for the baby to enter the world,” says Norton. “I really wanted the water birth to be successful, so I always used a bath to relax while pregnant. It gave me a sense of floating and the  water supported me. I really enjoyed it, and I would choose it again.”

The external fetal monitors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are waterproof, so they may be used with all types of hydrotherapy. Patients wishing to use a jet tub, available in two of Barnes-jewish Hospital's labor and delivery rooms, should request a room with a tub at admission and be prepared to leave the water to deliver. Even those laboring in the Hospital’s birthing tub should be prepared to get out of the water, if the attending physician requests it.

And if the tub-equipped rooms are full, patients in any other labor and delivery room may use showers for comfort as well. Each of these is equipped with a hand-held nozzle for directing the warm water.

Jacqueline Turner, MD, is a board-certified physician at West End OB/GYN. She is on staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
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