Birthing Pools - A Calming and Comfortable Alternative
There are so many good reasons to use a birthing pool, whether at home or in a maternity unit, they are widely available, and for some, make a huge difference in reducing pain and achieving a drug free labour.
The relaxing effects of warm water can help ease pain and water also supports your body, making it much easier to move about and remain comfortable throughout. Many women spend time in the pool during labour but get out just before the birth, whilst others once in, stay in, and give birth in the water. The choice is yours and if you find you don’t like it when the time comes, just get out! Don’t feel obliged to stay in the pool, just because it is there.
- Comfort - Birthing in a pool is the perfect environment in which to use your hypnobirthing techniques. Women who labour in water are far less likely to use medical pain relief with or without hypnobirthing.
- Cocooned personal space – Whether at home or in a maternity unit, the pool provides a warm personal space, this reduces stress and anxiety, which in turn lessens the perception of pain and gives you confidence in your own ability to give birth. It’s like having your own personal nest.
- Supports your weight – Many women use the pool only once they are reasonably advanced, this can give immediate relief to your contractions, as it is so much easier to change positions when buoyant. If you choose to stay in the pool to give birth, then the water makes it easier for you to stay upright, helping your pelvis to open up so your baby can pass through.
- Reduced risk of tearing - The water softens the tissues of your perineum making them more supple and able to stretch to accommodate your baby’s head as it passes through.
- It feels good! Relaxing in warm water stimulates your body to produce pain-relieving endorphins. If you like a soak in a bath, then this might just be for you!
Many experts believe that being born into warm water eases your baby’s transition to the outside world, but equally the benefits to you for a calm, comfortable birthing experience, would have the same beneficial outcome for your baby.
Is it safe for you and your baby?
For healthy women with straightforward low-risk pregnancies, a water birth is considered just as safe as giving birth on dry land. Many consultant’s units are now installing births as well for women who may need extra care. Your midwife will monitor you and your baby whilst you are in the water, and may ask you to get out if she has any concerns. If you give birth in the water you will probably be asked to get out after the expulsion of the placenta as there’s a very slight risk you could bleed at this stage and it is easier for the midwife to monitor this out of the water.
A common concern is that your baby might inhale water during the birth, but all the evidence indicates that this does not happen. After all, your baby has been in fluid for the last nine months without drowning, so why should it start now. It is the shock of the air in the baby’s lungs after birth which stimulates it to take its first breath, and then it continues to breathe normally. When your baby is born under water she is still attached to you by her umbilical cord and continues to receive oxygen through it. She will not take her first breath until he is brought to the surface of the water. Either you or your husband or partner can receive your baby in the water and put him in your arms. There is plenty of time.
How to plan your water birth
Many maternity units have birthing pools available to use, but it is hard to guarantee the availability of the room that it is in if giving birth in Hospital. So if the use of a pool is central to your plans, then make sure this is in your birth plan and tell your midwife when you arrive. At home you can guarantee that a pool will be available. The easiest option is to hire a pool from one of the specialist birthing pool hire companies. Your midwife she will almost certainly have all the information you need on finding a pool, and the best place to use it if birthing at home.
Who can’t have a water birth?
Of course there will be circumstances that make a water birth inappropriate, such as complications in your pregnancy, so take advice from your midwife in the period leading up to your due date. You might also find that a pool is not available or ready at the very moment you need it. Plan to use a birthing pool if you like the idea, but don’t get anxious or stressed if circumstances remove the option from your best laid plan!
Using the pool
- Be prepared to get in and out as advised and be guided by how you feel.
- Even if your whole front room has been dismantled to fit it in and it has been filled to the correct temperature, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t use it.
- Getting into the pool is so relaxing that it can often speed up labour.
- Maintain the correct water temperature (37%) throughout, and stay warm when you are out of the water.