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Igor Charkovsky

Michel Odent, MD

Michael Rosenthal, MD

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The Innovators and Pioneers

We are fortunate that much valuable research and work has been done by the water birth pioneers: Igor Charkovsky from Moscow, who developed the water birth method in the early sixties, Michael Odent, MD, of France, who was the first to bring water birth into a hospital setting (in France) in the late seventies, and Michael Rosenthal, MD, the first American doctor to create a birth center, in the late 80's, specifically designed to offer water labor and water birth. Gladly, we can benefit from their findings and the methods they have developed over the last several years.

Progressive doctors, nurses and midwives interested in participating in this newest gentle birth innovation will find it relatively easy to physically implement water labor and water birth into birth centers and hospitals. All that is needed is a tub with sufficient room for the mother to move around in when she wants to change position, and a source of clean, warm water. Women will welcome the opportunity to use a warm tub during labor to alleviate their pain and discomfort, and they and their babies will benefit as a result.

Hospitals will also benefit, for several reasons. They will have a special and attractive option to offer the birthing woman to assist her in having an easier and quicker delivery. They will most likely have far better outcomes: fewer infant and maternal deaths, a lower cesarean rate, and less complications because the use of water for labor and delivery has been demonstrated to lower the incidents of all types of birth complications, according to the findings of Dr. Rosenthal and Dr. Odent.

The most difficult aspect of bringing this method into more common use in American hospitals is not the physical requirements of the method or the certainty of its benefits, as these have been demonstrated. The challenge is in gaining the support of doctors and hospital personnel, because water birth calls upon them to stand back and allow women far greater control over their own birthing process.

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