Waterbirth International is a 20-year-old organization founded by Barbara Harper with one goal in mind: "To make water birth an available option for all women." Since the organization's inception, Waterbirth International has been providing education, training, programs, consultations and birthing pools to women and health care providers all over the world. But WI is facing serious financial difficulties and is in danger of closing its doors permanently by January 31. Although Waterbirth International acknowledges that their participation in the Gentle Birth World Congress was "a fabulous success in every way for international and local attendees," they accept that it drained all of their resources. As a result, they are in desperate need of raising $200,000 in donations to keep the organization alive.
Did you know the right to choose a water birth in the United Kingdom is protected by government policy?
"We recommend that all hospitals make it their policy to make full provision whenever possible for women to choose the position which they prefer for labour and birth with the option of birthing pool where this is practicable."
Wouldn't it be amazing if the United States had such a policy as well? I think for that to be realized Waterbirth International needs to stay afloat (pardon the pun) and keep fighting the good fight. They've made some amazing strides since 1988 and can continue to do so if the organization can raise enough money to remain open.
Before I mention the ways in which you can help, I first want to tell you more about the benefits of water birth and the many accomplishments of Waterbirth International, as well as introduce you to some women who've had amazing water birth experiences.
Why Choose Water Birth?
"Support in water is one of the most beneficial things that can be offered to a woman in labor. The water provides a calming influence and a peaceful relaxed atmosphere. Women report that they enjoy their labors and find that the water allows complete freedom of movement and deep concentration."
Known benefits of water labor and water birth
• Facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labor and birth
• Speeds up labor
• Reduces blood pressure
• Gives mother more feelings of control
• Provides significant pain relief
• Promotes relaxation
• Conserves her energy
• Reduces the need for drugs and interventions
• Gives mother a private protected space
• Reduces perineal trauma and eliminates episiotomies
• Reduces cesarean section rates
• Is highly rated by mothers - typically stating they would consider giving birth in water again
• Is highly rated by experienced providers
• Encourages an easier birth for mother and a gentler welcome for baby
The Work of Waterbirth International
Over the past 20 years, Waterbirth International has made great strides in making water birth more accessible to women and more acceptable to health care providers around the world.
"We are very proud of the fact that we have assisted in the installation of birth pools in over 200 hospitals in the US and several dozen in other countries around the globe, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Taiwan, China, Turkey, Germany, Argentina, Ecuador, Australia, Philippines and India to name just a few.
We have also assisted over 6,200 couples with portable pool rentals for water labor and water birth.
Countless more couples have watched our videos and DVDs and shared them with family, friends and providers. All of this has helped change the consciousness of birth and parenting."
The Women and Babies Benefited from Water Birth
It's important to remember that all of the work done by Barbara Harper and Waterbirth International makes such a difference in the births of so many babies and their mothers. How many women have been able to forgo pain medication and interventions and have a peaceful, gentle birth experience thanks to the available option of birthing in water? And how many babies have been able to reap the physical and emotional benefits of having a gentle water birth?
Birthowl, a blog on natural childbirth, is home to a handful of amazing water birth stories including:
Great Birth Changes has a post about a hospital in Kansas City, MO allowing water births. The mother recounts, "It was a wonderful experience. The whole labor was a short 3 1/2 hours long, but very much intense. We labored for two hours at home, mostly on the birthing ball and then came to the hospital where we labored about an hour in the tub, which felt so good, then he was born gently underwater with two pushes! We were so happy to have the choice of a water birth at the hospital."
How You Can Help
If you would like to help Waterbirth International secure their future, please consider:
- DONATING any amount you can
- Becoming a member of Waterbirth International
- Buying a birth pool for your local midwives
- Buying a birth pool for yourself
- Buying a birth video for yourself or donating it to your local library
- Spreading the word around the world by posting about Waterbirth International on other sites and blogs
I believe that women should have options when it comes to birth, and that those options should include the ability to labor and birth in the water - not just at home, but in birthing centers and hospitals as well. Waterbirth International is well on it's way to making that choice a reality, but they need support from all of us to keep the dream alive.
Contributing editor Amy Gates also blogs at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.
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