Annie Evans, mom to 8-month-old Anson, knew when she was pregnant with Anson that she wanted something different than the hospital birth she experienced with her older son.
"The more I researched natural childbirth, I read how much easier it seems to be than medicated birth on your body and the baby," Evans said. "So I decided to do the water birth instead. From the research I did, it seems so much more relaxing of an environment and pain relieving for your body."
She was the first mother to have a water birth at the Mahoning Valley Birth Center.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Kayla Hanuschak
New moms who experienced water births at the Mahoning Valley Birth Center pictured, seated, from left, are Cecilia Walsh, mother to Pennylane, 4 months; Katherina Matasic, mother to Benjamin, 5 weeks; and Mallory Torchio, mother to Penn, 3 months. Standing are Johanna de Blok, mother to Briella, 3 months, and Annie Evans, mother to Anson, 8 months.
Rachel Sieman has been a nurse-midwife since 2007, and has been assisting local mothers with water births since the center opened last June.
"The biggest benefit is pain relief," Sieman said, when comparing water birth to "land birth."
"Women who get into the tub feel like their contractions have stopped. I've had many women tell me that they feel like the need to get out of the tub because nothing is progressing, but in reality they are progressing really well. The warmth of the water, the buoyancy of the water, helps women to be much more comfortable," she said.
It might even be more comfortable for the newborn babies as well.
Evans said that the difference between her water and land birth felt completely different.
"With my older son, he screamed for about a half hour or 45 minutes afterward," Evans said. "It was stressful, and when Anson was born, he was so peaceful and so quiet and it was just a huge difference to remember that with my older son and how it was almost traumatic for him. Where for Anson, he was very calm and it was very serene. He didn't cry until the next day really. That is one thing that I can say between a land birth and a water birth."
Sieman explained that women have a choice whether they want to stay in the tub the entire time or stay in just for the contractions and come out for the pushing. Most women choose to stay in the entire time.
"If they choose to give birth in the water and that feels comfortable to them at that moment, then the baby does come out under the water," Sieman said. "The baby is lifted immediately to the mom's chest. They have a reflex that prevents them from taking a breath, called the dive reflex. They have been in the water environment the whole time that they have been gestating so when they come out, it is not a shock to them at all. They don't start breathing until they hit the air."
Sieman said that about half of the moms that she takes care of decide to go to the hospital because of the resources available in case of an emergency. Also, some women want the option of an epidural to help cease the pain. In order to be eligible to give birth at the MVBC, the women have to fit a certain criteria.
"We don't take anyone who has any risk factors," Sieman said. "You can't be diabetic, have high blood pressure, no twins, no breach babies. You have to really meet some criteria that make you healthy and low risk to be at the birth center. About half of the moms that give birth here give birth in the water."
Registered nurse Kelly King has worked at a hospital and now works at the birth center. Having experienced birth at both places, she noticed a big difference between the children born on land compared to those by water.
"Our babies seem to transition so much better with no meds during labor," King said. "They latch on right away, they nurse really well, and they are wide awake when they come out. I noticed a big difference from the hospital from here."
First-time mother Katherina Matasic, mother of Benjamin, 5 weeks, knew from a young age that she wanted to have a water birth.
"When I was a teenager, my mom had a baby and really wished that she could do the water birth and there wasn't a place like that to do it yet," Matasic said. "So since I was a teenager, I actually thought that this was a really nice way to do it."
Although Matasic does not have a land birth as comparison, she is still confident that the water birth route was the less painful way to go.
"Yes, it still hurts, but I think assuming from what I think it would have felt like and from what the contractions felt like from before I got into the water, it was a big difference," Matasic said. "So once I got in the water, I actually got in during a contraction, and I felt the change. It felt lighter, like a weight was lifted."
Kamiren Veisz, administrator of the Mahoning Valley Birth Center and the center's birth clerk, said that when she talks to the moms, they say they only feel the peak of their contractions instead of the whole thing. Because of that reason, water birth attracts many people.
"I would have 10 more births in the bathtub compared to the hospital," Evans said.