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Water babies

Hoboken University Medical Center offers new birth method

Hoboken University Medical Center now offers water births and water labors to expectant mothers using a temporary tub set up in their newly renovated maternity suits.

Expectant mothers have a new option when deciding to deliver their baby, now that Hoboken University Medical Center offers water labors and water births.

“It’s the reason I chose to have my baby at that hospital,” said Ridgewood resident Jeanette Wiltshire last week, who had a water birth at the hospital in June. She said the hospitals near her in Bergen County did not offer that option.

Water labor means warm water is used as a pain management tool during contractions before a baby is delivered. Water birth is when a woman gives birth lying in a tub of warm water, according to Midwife Kristin Mallon and Chief Medical Officer Meika Roberson.

Women who choose to have a water birth are not allowed epidurals, and the warm water acts as a natural pain reliever.

According to Roberson, water births and labors have become more popular in recent years.

“The number one reason is really to cater to the population in Hudson County, especially Hoboken,” said Roberson. “The younger generation is really into things that are natural and into holistic medicine and anti-medication, and definitely the push is going back to midwifery.”

She added, “One of the words people kept saying was the word ‘choice’ and women younger than me want a choice. They want their options, whether it’s ‘give me every epidural you have’ or ‘you want a c-section,’ ‘knock me out,’ or ‘no I want a c-section but I want to be awake,’ or water births. You want to know your provider offers you the option to pick in this lovely labor buffet.”

Hoboken University Medical Center, operated by CarePoint Health (which also runs Bayonne Medical Center and Christ Hospital), officially launched the new method in June.  

“We’ve been talking about it and working on it for about the past nine months,” said Roberson. “It not something we just jumped into. When we deliver a baby, everything needs to be safe. We check that the water is the correct temperature. We trained everyone, including the cleaning crew and the medical assistance and the nurses to make sure everyone is properly trained. We are now fully operational and were cleared by the DOH [state Department of Health] for over a month now.”

Personal experience

Wiltshire delivered her first two children in London in water births. She wanted to do the same for her third child, but finding a hospital that offered the method near her was difficult.

“There are over 50 muscles in your pelvic floor.” – Kristin Mallon

“I decided both [previous births] were such good experiences, I wanted to do the same with my third child,” said Wiltshire. “If Hoboken didn’t [offer it], I think the next closest was in Morristown and that’s way too far away. There is no way I would’ve made it there. I would’ve had to go a different route.”

Mallon said the warm water during water labors and water births acts the same way to relieve pain as athletes who sit in a Jacuzzi to relieve their muscle aches.

“There are over 50 muscles in your pelvic floor,” she said, “so relaxing those muscles help to lower pain and helps women get through the labor easier.”

Facilities will be upgraded

According to Roberson, the hospital uses temporary tubs for water births that are filled with water no hotter than 100 degrees.

“We do not have permanent tubs at this point,” she said, “but we are hoping to build birth suites that will include a permanent tub and large enough area to walk around and have family members present. We have been able to set up temporary tubs that are about hip high, and large enough for a woman to give birth in and have enough space for family members to walk around. They are made of medical grade material and the walls are very sturdy.”

Roberson said the method might not be safe for all women.

“There are a lot of reasons a woman may not be able to deliver in the water,” said Roberson. “It could be their heart rate is too high, or perhaps we couldn’t hear something with the baby, or if you have a temperature or an infection, or if you’re not a limber person and can’t get in or out of the tub. If something goes wrong, we will need to get you out of there and move to a land delivery.”

According to Roberson, the method is usually covered by insurance. HUMC’s in-network insurance providers include Healthfirst-Managed Medicare and Medicaid Plans, Amerigroup-Managed Medicare and Medicaid Plans, Medicare, Medicaid, Magnacare, Carepoint, AmeriHealth, and City of Hoboken Employees – United Healthcare (administered by UMR).

For more information contact Hoboken University Medical Center at (201) 418-1000.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonrporter.com

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