Since the 1960s, thousands of women in many countries have been discovering the advantages of immersion in a pool of warm water during childbirth.
Experience shows that there are many benefits including effective pain relief, enhanced relaxation, an increased sense of privacy, and a reduction in the need for intervention.
“I am convinced that in addition to the most obvious physiological effects of using water in labour, such as reducing strain on the joints, muscles and ligaments that have to stretch during birth, and softening and relaxing the perineum, the water helps the mother to enter the deeply centred, relaxed, flowing, instinctive state of mind that enables her to pay attention exclusively to the signals she is receiving from her body and the baby. One of the other reasons I use water in labour is that I want the transition from life in the womb to life in the air to be as gentle as possible for the baby. Babies who are born gently in a warm watery environment and who do not have the cord cut, play with their first breaths instead of the panic stricken gasp which was the first experience of breathing our generation had. “You can give birth gently without water but it certainly helps to be able to use it!”
(Judith Crowe - childbirth educator, rebirther & mother of 6)
Birth pools are increasingly popular with couples having home births as they can offer great natural pain relief and comfort during labour and delivery.
There are a number of different sizes and designs of pool available to suit individual needs.
A number of factors should be taken into account, e.g. where the pool is to be placed to support the weight of the water, along with the mother and birth attendants and to allow the birth attendants adequate access to the mother; Hot and cold water supply (hoses are usually supplied); Keeping water at suitable temperature. After use water is removed using a pump. For more details on these practicalities, contact a supplier of birth pools (see below).
There is quite a difference between using a birth pool and a normal bath. The depth of water is much greater and gives the mother more buoyancy and space. There is room for the partner to join the labouring woman and there is better visibility and access for a birth attendant.
(In Russia, ‘see-thru’ pools are available!)
Pools come in a variety of designs but are all easily assembled in minutes without any extra equipment, tools or technical know-how! Some can be set up some time before the birth and used for relaxation and family use. Others are designed only for use on the “birth-day” itself. Do remember to talk to your midwife about your plans to use a birth pool. Find out if she has had previous experience and how she feels about delivery directly into the water as opposed to only labouring in water (if this is your choice).
There are many resources for waterbirth online – just search for them under water birth. There are also a good few you-tube videos of waterbriths.
Finally, a comment on waterbirth by a mother: “Using a waterbirth pool gave me a sense of privacy and my own space. The feeling of weightlessness in the water helped relieve the pain as I had a feeling of great freedom to move about and work with the contractions.”
Click here for a list of Irish birth stories on our site where the mother laboured, and sometimes birthed, in water.
If you wish to borrow a birthpool please contact the Home Birth Association here or on our facebook page as we have a few pools that do the rounds! You will probably wish to purchase a liner and you can do that here http://www.madeinwater.co.uk/
Books on Water Birth
(1) “Water Birth”. Janet Balaskas/Yehundi Gordon (Unwin Paperbacks )
(2) “Ideal Birth”. Sondra Ray (Celestial Arts 1986)
(3) “The Waterbirth Handbook”. Dr. Roger Lichy/Eileen Herzberg (Gateway Books 1993)
(4) “We are all Water Babies”. Jessica Johnson/Michel Odent (Dragons World 1994)
(5) “Water Birth Unplugged” - Proceedings of the 1st International Water Birth Conference (April ‘95). Edited by Beverley A. Lawrence Beech. (Books for Midwives Press, September 1996)