Birth in water: the hows and the whys

As I type this I’m looking wistfully at my rather lovely La Bassine birth pool, bought in anticipation of my own home water birth. Due to a labour that progressed rather faster than we realised (and an incident that will go unreported involving someone never to be named filling the pool with cold water) I never actually got in my pool and delivered my daughter on dry land.

But, if I am ever lucky enough to have another go, I will be blowing up that pool immediately after my 12 week scan, where it will remain in pride of place in our living room like a giant, inflatable sculpture. I may have to move the sofas out, but for the chance of having a water birth I’m pretty much prepared to do without normal furniture and turn our house in to water world.

It may not be for everyone, but if you are interested in finding out more about a water birth here’s a quick summary of the hows and whys.

How?

  • Most hospitals/birth centres have a birth pool available (though it is luck of the draw as to whether it’s free) – discuss your wish to be in the pool with your midwife in advance and write it on your birth plan.
  • You won’t be encouraged to get in the water until you’re in established labour in case the water slows things down.
  • If you’re planning a homebirth you can rent a fairly substantial pool from a huge range of places (google is your friend here), though bear in mind it might actually be more cost effective to buy an inflatable pool. Two popular ones are the Birth Pool in a Box and La Bassine. You can purchase ones that have been bought but not used for a little less on ebay or gumtree – but it’s not a good idea to use one that’s already experienced a birth, unless you can buy a new liner. Your local homebirth group may be able to rent/lend you one and do ask your midwife if they have any scheme to lend pools.

If you are thinking it all sounds like a bit of a hassle, you might want to read on about the benefits of labouring and/or delivering in water.

Why?

  • Water is a brilliant natural pain reliever. Think of how nice it is to sink in to a warm bath after a long run (or very short walk around the supermarket depending on your level of fitness). The warm water makes contractions easier to deal with for many women as it relaxes your muscles and relaxes you.
  • Being in the pool automatically gives you more privacy and a more ‘hands off’ mode of care. If you aren’t keen on very directed pushing and/or don’t like the thought of being touched during labour a pool provides a cocoon people won’t enter.
  • The water aids your buoyancy and enables you to change position more easily.
  • Women often report that babies delivered in water are calmer and more settled in their first hours and cry less upon being born.

To see a water birth yourself pop ‘water birth’ in to You Tube. You can also get more information on various aspects with the following links:

  • AIMS has great info on how to request a waterbirth and what to do if you are coming up against any obstacles
  • The Homebirth site has loads of information on water births in your own home

I’ll be back in the coming weeks with the story of a lovely labour and birth that happened this year in my own pool. I promise I didn’t make sharing the birth story a condition of lending the pool, but am delighted to be able to share it with you all nonetheless. If you’re lucky there may even be some pictures…

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The Hackney Doula

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