Heather Kennedy, DO holds Matteo, 4 months old, during a well child visit at SSM Health Clinic in Columbus, WI.
By: Patti Walker
Article Featured in Inspire Magazine

Involvement, the sensation of childbirth, and bonding with her partner, were all things Patty Sanchez-Walker wanted to experience when giving birth to her son Matteo.
"I wanted the opposite of what I experienced when I gave birth to my daughter, Yaritza, 12 years ago when I had an epidural," she explained. "I wanted a natural childbirth with no drugs and wanted to do it myself." 
Sanchez-Walker lives in Burnett, Wisconsin with her husband Rich and three children, including Yaritza, her son Dillon, 11, and Matteo, now 6 months old. "When I found out I was pregnant, I made an appointment with Dr. Heather Kennedy (family practitioner) at the Dean Clinic in Columbus," said San­chez-Walker. "When I explained to Dr. Kennedy what I wanted for my birthing experience, she suggested that I try a water birth." 

Sanchez-Walker then met with Elizabeth Larson, MD, a family practitioner at an independent clinic in Columbus . who is experienced in water birth delivery. Dr. Larson walked her through the water birth experience she would have at Prairie Ridge Health. "Both Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Larson were really upfront with me about the risks and benefits of a water birth," she said. "I also took the childbirth class at the hospital, which addressed the water birth and then received additional education from Dr. Larson." 

Water births are designed for low risk patients. A mother may request a water birth ahead of time or may decide to have a water birth during labor. Awa­ter birth is not possible if the mother has an epidural or is a high risk patient. 
Elizabeth Larson, MD, Heather Kennedy, DO and the Prairie Ridge Health Childbirth Services team are certified through Water Birth International. PRH is also part of a water birth consortium in the state of Wisconsin and participates in a data collection study. 

Prairie Ridge Health has a special tub that is used specifically for water births. The tub is mobile with removable side doors and a comfortable seat so moms can move around and choose the best position for them during their labor and birth. 
The tub is filled with water that remains at 96 to 100 degrees, which is considered optimal temperature for the mother and baby. The water temperature is monitored throughout the labor and delivery. 

During the course of labor, the mother gets into the tub, and can get in and out of the tub as many times as she likes, providing a sense of privacy, in a calming environment. The water helps with relaxation, allowing the baby to be born vaginally and without pain medication. 
The baby is delivered under water and then brought up and onto the mother's chest. The father can be in the tub or to the side of the tub. 

"My husband, Rich, wanted to experience a natural childbirth as well," explained Sanchez-Walker. "When I told him about the water birth option, he was all for it." 

Matteo Alexander Walker was born at 11 :35 p.m. on March 7, 2017 via water birth at Prairie Ridge Health. 

"It's what I expected and more," said Sanchez-Walker. "I think the water birth helped me progress quickly with giving birth. I felt more relaxed. My pain level was to the max, but I was relaxed to the point that I could control my pain, and with my husband's help, I could breathe through it. I think my husband was more involved this time because it was a water birth." 

Other amenities that can make the birthing experience positive, whether water birth or not, include relaxing music, electric candles, and low lighting. 

Now as a mother of three, San­chez-Walker is enjoying life with her family and encouraging others to consider the option of water birth. "Do your research. Ask about a water birth, because I think it is great! I feel that more people should know about it." 

Those considering a water birth should start by talking with their physician during a regular appointment to learn more about it and if it is right for them. For more information about the water birth experience, call Prairie Ridge Health at 920-623-2200. *