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Birthing In Water

Written by Amina Hatia RM
Medically reviewed by Marley Hall BA RM Diphe
February 16, 2021

Where to have your baby is often one of the first questions parents to be ask themselves. In hospital, a birthing centre or in the comfort of your own home? It can feel like an incredibly difficult decision. It’s important to take your time and plan what is right for you. In our series of blogs on birth choices – which we cover in detail in our antenatal course and advise and support you in making the best choice for you, we are going to start with waterbirths. Waterbirth was first reported in an 1805 medical journal, started to become more popular in the 1990s and we’ve seen more and more people birthing in water in the last 2 decades. A nice warm bath is very relaxing and often women find having a bath or shower very soothing during their pregnancy. There is no reason why the feeling of relaxation in water cannot continue during labour.

Water is lovely, warm and calming ….you will feel lighter and can move around and try different positions with the minimum of effort.

It’s now very usual to have a waterbirth (1 in 10 UK births are now ‘waterbirths’) and most birthing centres have their own birthing pools. Only deliveries taking place in the pool are officially classed as ‘waterbirths’.

1 in 5 women use water during labour, even if they don’t use the pool for the actual delivery. A shower, bath or just sitting in the birthing pool can provide a useful tool in your labour armoury.

One of the main advantages of being in water is that you’ll experience the weightlessness and flexibility that the water provides enabling you to frequently alter your positions.

One of the most common and comfortable positions is to kneel on all fours, using the edge of the pool for support. You can even use your partner to provide this function.

The birthing pool is rather like that nice warm bath that you might use to take away aches and pains at the end of a long day! It can ‘takes the edge’ off any discomfort you may be feeling.

Having your own birthing space in the pool can also give you a great sense of comfort, protection and privacy. By feeling safe and relaxed powerful signals are being sent to your brain, all helping to ease the labour process.

By making an active decision to try giving birth in the pool you will feel more in control, this feeling of power is also a very important tool for managing labour and birth. 

Research has shown that women who opt for a waterbirth often are less likely to use other more invasive forms of pain relief and generally are likely to recall a positive birthing experience. Women tend to feel more comfortable and soothed due to the fluidity of the water, creating a manageable labour. Words such as ‘relaxed’, ‘pleasurable’ and ‘fulfilling’ often come up when describing the experience of a waterbirth.

It has also been found that almost 80% of women having a waterbirth would like do the same in for any subsequent births.

All NHS trusts have strict guidance for the use of their pools and ensure all midwives are trained in their use for both labour and birth.

Your midwife will advise you on how to set up your birth pool at home, and will have it ready for you in the birth centre or delivery suite if you request it.

Midwives are experts in maintaining temperature control, and will ensure the correct temperature of 37.5’ is kept throughout your labour.

Your midwife will also advise you on how best to monitor baby’s heartrate in water, what positions may be more comfortable and advise your birth partner on how to support you too. Something everyone wonders about is how baby breathes underwater – but your baby won’t take their first breath until they meet the air, due to something called the ‘dive reflex’.

Even while underwater your baby’s oxygen is coming directly from the placenta, just like it was when in the womb.

If for any reason you simply change your mind…… or once in find you don’t like it very much then it’s very easy to just get out! Your midwife will be there to help. Often labour and birth does not go exactly as you’ve prepared in your plan, so you should feel free your change your mind.

Or you may simply decide you’d like a change and labour on dry land – again that’s OK. Out of the pool you can try different pain relief such as an epidural or opioids – you can’t have these in the pool but you can have gas and air. Our Midwife Hayley who is huge fan of water births shares that “water births can be truly magical and an incredibly empowering birth experience. We know some parents to be might be unsure about giving birth in a pool but try not to worry. Remember all forms of water therapy can help with the power of contractions and act as pain relief during labour – so don’t be afraid to try it to manage labour- you never know you may end up loving it so much you end up having baby in water too!” Top Tips on Planning for a Waterbirth Above all try to remember, this is a common way to birth.

Midwives are experts in and have the experience and training to help and be there for you during your water birth.

Let the water help you relax and trust in your midwife for a positive labour and birth experience.