Using a birthing pool



According to research, about 10% of labouring women use birth pools as pain relief in labour. As it becomes more popular and accessible this figure should increase but what’s so great about it…

What are the benefits?

  • Warm water can be very beneficial in labour, to help women feel relaxed and safe. It helps our muscles and joints relax, helping us feel comfortable.
  • Being in a birth pool can provide a safe, private place to labour.
  • You can float and move with ease, which can help you conserve energy
  • It works well with Gas & Air – another great form of pain relief to help you work with your contractions
  • If you change your mind about pain relief, and you decide you need more you can get out of the pool

Any downsides?

  • If you don’t fit the criteria, you can’t use the pool – so both you and your baby need to be healthy. If your midwife isn’t happy with your blood pressure, for instance, or with your baby’s heartbeat then it is no longer an option.
  • If the pool isn’t available, you may have a wait to use the pool.
  • Some parents worry that their baby will breathe underwater but that is why the criteria for using the pool can be so rigid – your midwife wants to make sure that your baby is healthy so he won’t breathe under the water. Your midwife will also be checking your baby’s heartbeat throughout labour, so if it changes she may ask you to get out of the pool.
  • If this is a concern for you, talk to your midwife about it. You can just use the birth pool for pain relief, some women stand up or get out of the pool to birth their baby. But go with the flow, because it might feel right to stay in the water.

What does it involve?

  • If you are in hospital, your midwife will fill the pool for you. If you are at home, you or your partner can get the pool ready. The pool is deep so that your back and bump are submerged in the water, with the aim of relaxing your muscles and easing pressure on your joints.
  • The water is kept at about 37 degrees, so it is warm but not too hot, which could make you tired. It will also benefit your baby if he is born into the water as it is body temperature.
  • You will get one-to-one midwifery care, so you get to know your midwife who is there to support and encourage you. This has been shown to reduce the need for further pain relief and interventions.
  • You can get in and out of the pool as you please – NICE guidance states that “there is insufficient evidence on timing of use of water in labour” (NCCWCH 2007: 96). Some women stay in for long periods – when they are in, they are in – others will want to walk and move about and use the pool when they feel like they need it.

What will your midwife be doing?

  • Providing physical and emotional support and reassurance
  • Checking baby’s heartbeat
  • Checking your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and the pattern of your contractions
  • Checking the temperature of the water and making sure it is warm enough

When will you need to get out of the pool?

  • If you want to!
  • If you experience any bloodloss
  • If your baby’s heartbeat changes or your baby has a poo (meconium), as this can be a sign that he isn’t coping with the contractions
  • Your midwife may ask you to climb out if she wants to carry out an internal examination to check on your progress. But this may only take a few minutes.

What does the research say?

  • According to research (Cluett and Burns 2009) if you are healthy and your pregnancy is straightforward it is safe for you to labour in water.
  • The risk of infection to you or your baby after labouring in a birth pool is no greater than if you laboured in air – a 2009 Cochrane Review analysed the results of five trials assessing the health and wellbeing of babies after labouring in water.  The review reported no difference in infection rates in the babies or in admissions to special care compared to babies born in air.

Where can you use a birthing pool?

If you plan a homebirth, you can hire a birthing pool

There are also pools within our locals maternity units:

Cramlington Maternity Unit has one pool

The QE Maternity Unit in Gateshead has one pool

RVI Birthing Centre has 5 pools

The RVI Maternity Unit has 2 pools

Your words…

The water, natal hypnotherapy, relaxation and breathing techniques helped me to have a fantastic second labour experience. Infinitely different from the first time round

It helped me create the environment I wanted for my labour

My consultant told me to have a water birth with my second baby to help prevent or reduce tearing

I’d not want to labour on dry land!

I’ve heard that water as pain relief beats everything except and epidural – which suits me 

It’s lovely, lovely, lovely being in that water….

I don’t know why, I don’t even like baths! However, a lovely antenatal teacher planted the seed the first time round and I thought I’d enjoy the soothing environment and I wanted to have a natural birth.

I felt free to make the right decisions and that extra choice kept me calm and in control which was key for me, having felt so out if control the first time round. I can’t recommend it enough. I had a 10lb baby with a slight tear (no stitches needed) and it was a breeze compared to my first 8lb baby born by ventouse following an epidural. The post labour recovery was unbelievably different, both baby and me were very chilled, resting in our own bed and he just loves being in water still.

I wanted a relaxed birth, was not keen on needles and wanted minimum intervention. It helped reduce pain, reduced need for gas and air, didn’t tear and made moving into different positions easier. When I first got in I found the first minute a bit overwhelming as when I getting in and comfortable I had a contraction. I was a bit scared and had to mentally have a word with myself.

About Janine 664 Articles
As an experienced and qualified practitioner, I specialise in pregnancy, birth and parent support - my aim is to listen, inform, support and reassure when needed. I have worked with parents since 2002 and I set up Birth, Baby & Family in 2011 to provide good information, different voices and links to the best products and services for families.

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