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Growing number of women choosing water births

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Atlanta Medical Center provides facilities for water births. Atlanta Medical Center provides facilities for water births.
ATLANTA -

When you imagine a hospital room, a blow-up pool probably doesn't come to mind. But that's exactly what you'll find inside some of the labor and delivery rooms at Atlanta Medical Center. That's where a small but growing number of women are choosing to give birth in water.

Kristen Ritter-Rivera spent months getting ready for her baby Diego's birth last November, she wanted his arrival to be warm and natural.

She didn't want to give birth in a hospital bed; she wanted to do it in water.

"We're water beings, we live on a water planet.  It's just seemed natural to be in the water," Ritter-Rivera said.

Nurses and midwives at Atlanta Medical Center delivered on Ritter-Rivera's birth plan.

As she moved through the first stages of labor, they set up a "birth pool in a box"in her hospital room, filling it with hot water that was close to 100 degrees.

Certified Nurse Midwife Marsha Ford says it feels like it does when you take a hot bath at home, and this is how about 10 percent of her patients want to deliver their babies.

"A lot of women do not want to lay in the bed. They do not want to stay connected to monitors.  They want to be up and moving.  They do not want IVs," Ford said.

Ritter-Rivera was 9 centimeters dilated before she actually climbed into the pool.  A woman usually starts pushing at 10.

"And I tell you, as soon as I sat in that water, it was just like -- everything relaxed," Ritter-Rivera said. 

The nurses use waterproof monitors and equipment to make sure Diego's heartbeat was stable."

"If you see that you have a problem, then you can get the woman out of the pool. If you need a physician, you can call a physician for your backup," Ford said.

Ritter-Rivera had no complications.
    
"I was finally like, 'Ah, relief,'" said Ritter-Rivera.

She only pushed for about 40 minutes.

"And when he finally came out, I felt the ring of fire, I felt all my bones, you know, push out of the way. And it was like one last push and got his head through and his body just ejected out," Ritter-Rivera said.

Because Diego went from a warm womb to warm water, he was calm when he was born.

"He was just so wide-eyed and alert and looking around," Ritter-Rivera said.

"They don't come out screaming and hollering. You will not see a screaming hollering water baby. You will not," Ford said.

Kristen says Diego's birth turned out to be like her baby -- better than she could have ever imagined.

"It was beautiful; it was a perfect, perfect, perfect birth.  I highly recommend it. I would do it over again in a minute.  Hopefully I will be able to do it again," Ritter-Rivera said.

Atlanta Medical Center and North Fulton Medical Center are the only hospitals offering water birth deliveries. You have to take a class at Atlanta Medical Center before you can deliver via water birth.

Ford says there's no additional charge and the deliveries are covered by Medicaid and most health insurance providers.

So, would you try it?  Weigh in on Beth Galvin's Facebook page.

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