Waterbirth With OHSU Nurse-Midwives

Black and white image of newborn on parent's lap in water

"Birth is a process. It ebbs and flows and you have to be flexible," says nurse-midwife Michele Megregian, C.N.M., M.S.N. "Water birth is one option for families to have the experience they desire." 

All of OHSU's care providers strive to give families a safe and natural birth experience, but only the nurse-midwifery team offers water birth. They were the first group to provide hospital-based water birth in Portland, and have developed their expertise in the method for over 20 years. 

We recently spoke with Megregian about water birth at OHSU. 

"Water birth is intentionally delivering a baby under water," says Megregian. "We offer water birth because mothers who give birth in the water have increased satisfaction about their experience."  

At OHSU, water births happen in a large inflatable tub that is set up in the delivery room. With a soft floor, high soft sides, and a built in seat, the tub offers the space and comfort women need to deliver under water. 

While there isn't research showing water birth has any benefits for the baby, it isn't harmful. "Babies born under water have similar outcomes to babies born on land, in terms of APGAR scores, NICU admissions, and health complications," Megregian says. 

Water immersion during labor 

While the jury is still out on benefits of water birth, research has shown great benefits for both mother and baby of water immersion during labor, whether or not the delivery actually happens there. 

Water immersion during labor helps mothers manage their pain. "When you're relaxed and coping better, labor tends to progress better," says Megregian. "There are some indications that laboring in the water can mean shorter labor." 

Water immersion during labor is also beneficial for babies. "The warm water means increased blood flow to the uterus. This means more blood and oxygen gets to your baby," Megregian says. 

At OHSU, water immersion during labor, in the shower or regular bath tub, is an option with any of our providers. Only the nurse-midwifery team has the large, soft-walled tubs that patients can use for both immersion and birth.  

Safety 

The risks of laboring in the water are low and easy for the nurse-midwifery team to control. They include: 

  • Water temperature –The tub is kept below 100 degrees to avoid increasing the mother's core temperature.  
  • Dehydration –This is always a concern during labor, but can be made worse during water immersion as women may forget to drink.  
  • Slips and falls – Mothers using the tub are required to be physically able to exit at any time. 
  • Dizziness and fatigue – Mothers who are using medication to cope with pain cannot use the tub. 

Meet the midwives 

The nurse-midwifery team is committed to helping women find the strategies and tools that will meet their needs, keep them and their babies safe, and help them achieve their goals. 

"The tub is just one tool in our toolbox for labor. It's one of many great options to help you cope and help labor progress," says Megregian.