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Barbara Harper (born June 25, 1952) is a US childbirth and maternity reform activist, author, educator and internationally recognized expert on the use of warm water immersion for labor and birth.
Harper has conducted workshops, professional certification and training programs, lectures and conferences in 61 countries, within hospitals, medical schools, nursing schools, midwifery programs and university women’s studies departments, as well as community parent groups. She has been interviewed by hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio and television shows, including CBS "The Doctors," to talk about her work with waterbirth and gentle birth.
Harper grew up in a small farming community in western Ohio. She attended Ohio State University in 1971, studying English literature. She switched to a nursing education program and became a registered nurse in 1975. Her nursing career included working in obstetrics, pediatrics, cardiac and neurosurgical intensive care. Harper began studying natural health and healing in the late 70s. She became a member of the newly created American Holistic Nurses Association and accepted a position on the board of directors of AHNA, in 1982.
Harper founded Waterbirth International in 1988, after visiting the former Soviet Union where she met early waterbirth pioneer, Igor Charkovsky, and interviewed parents and their midwives, who had given birth in water, including in the Black Sea. She also worked with Binnie Dansby in the early 1980s learning about cognitive-repressed experiences and memories of birth. She began researching waterbirth in 1983 and traveled to France to meet Dr. Frederick Leboyer and Dr. Michel Odent in their respective clinics, where she observed water immersion.
Author and video producer
Harper's research and experiences resulted in the publication of the Gentle Birth Choices book and DVD. The book has been translated into nine languages. She also produced the film, Birth Into Being: The Russian Waterbirth Experience, in cooperation with Alexi and Tatiana Sargunas in 1999.
- Harper, B. (1989) Waterbirth International: Professional Survey Assessment. Journal of Nurse Midwifery, 34(4), 206-210
- Harper, B. (1994). Waterbirth: An increasingly attractive gentle birth choice. International Journal of Childbrith Education, 9(1), February/March, 17-18.
- Harper, B. (1995). Gentle Birth Choices. Vermont: Healing Arts Press, Inc.
- Harper, B. (1995). Highlights of the International Conference on Waterbirth. International Midwife, Issue No. 3. 4, 17.
- Harper, B. (1995) Russia: A New Hope, ICEA Journal 11(1), April/May, 20-22
- Harper, B. (1993). Waterbirth Information Book. Portland: Global Maternal Child Health Association.
- Harper, B. (Autumn 1995). Waterbirth: a 10-year retrospective. Midwifery Today, 35, 12-13
- Harper, B. (Autumn 1997). Integrating Waterbirth into Maternity Care: An Agent for Change. Midwifery Today, 43, 35-36
- Harper, B. (1997) Opciones Para Un Parto Suave Lazer Press, Mexico City
- Harper, B (Summer 2000) Waterbirth Basics: from newborn breathing to hospital protocols. Midwifery Today, 54, pp 20–28
- Harper, B (2003) Taking the Plunge: Reevaluating Water Temperature during Waterbirth. Midirs Journal, London, England
- Harper, B. (2006) Waterbirth: The Heart and Soul of Gentle Birth, New York Mother and Baby Resource Magazine.
- Harper, B. (2009) Helping Women Achieve What They Want in a Hospital Birth:Education not Alienation. IJCE, 24 (3) 10-13
- Harper, B (2011) Introduction to Revisiting Waterbirth: An Attitude to Care by Dianne Garland (Palgrave Macmillan 2011)
- Harper, B. (2012) Seven Secrets of Successful Waterbirth. Essentially MIDIRS, May 2012
- Harper, B (2012) Childbirth as a Human Right: The Voice of the Baby, article included in Conference Papers Human Rights in Childbirth – International Conference of Jurists, Midwives & Obstetricians, Bynkers Hoek Publishing, The Hague, The Netherlands
- Harper, B (2013) Introduction to Redeeming Childbirth: Experiencing His Presence in Pregnancy, Labor, Childbirth, and Beyond by Angie Tolpin (Cross Books, 2013)
- Harper, B (2013) Birth, Bath and Beyond: How Waterbirth is Changing Maternity Care, Bynkers Hoek Publishing, The Hague, The Netherlands.
- Harper, B (2014) What Every Doula Needs to Know about Waterbirth. International Doula July 2014
- Harper, B (2014) Faith and Wisdom in the Face of Adversity. Empowering Birth Magazine. (Australia) June 2014
- Harper, B (2014) Birth, Bath & Beyond: The Science and Safety of Labor and Birth in Water. Journal of Perinatal Education Volume 23, Number 3, Summer.
- Harper, B (2016) Introduction to Revisiting Waterbirth: An Attitude to Care by Dianne Garland (Palgrave Macmillan 2016)
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- 2002 International Award presented by Lamaze International Board of Directors for dedication and commitment to promoting normal birth around the world
- 2007 Hospitale Militar, Mexico City – Recognition for excellence in education
- 2014 February Ottawa Birth and Women's Center, Ottawa, Canada - Recognition for service to women and support of Canadian Midwifery