pregnant woman in water

Planning a Water Birth

Water births are becoming increasingly popular for labouring women. Historically, water births have been used across the world. Women have given birth in the sea, rivers and steam baths throughout history. In recent years, water births are being used more frequently on labour wards, and in hospital births, too.

Advantages of a water birth

  • Water aids buoyancy, and allows labouring women to change position more easily.
  • Warm water on the lower back can help to relieve labour pains.
  • Some women report enjoying the privacy provided by the pool. The pool effectively puts distance between the labouring woman and the midwife, which some women say helped them to relax.
  • Research identified a surge in oxytocin immediately after entering the pool, this hormone stimulates contractions.

Some women choose to use a birthing pool for pain relief during the first stage, but then opt to exit the pool for the second and third stages. Other women give birth to their babies in the pool.

Water temperature

While you are in labour, the temperature of the water must be between 35°C and 37°C (95°F to 98.6°F). For the second stage of labour, the water will be kept at 37°C (98.6°F). The pool is kept at body temperature, to prevent the baby from breathing in water. Once born, it is thought to be the cold air that causes a baby’s breathing instinct kick in. By keeping the water at 37°C (98.6°F), the baby will not try to inhale until they are taken out of the water.

When should I get in the pool?

Some healthcare providers advise women to wait until they are 5cm dilated before entering the pool. Others are happy for the labouring women in their care to get in the pool as soon as active labour begins. Water births offer a form of pain relief, and many women find relief when they enter the pool. This may encourage you to get in earlier than intended on the day. Speak to your healthcare provider to find out if there are any regulations in place at your birthing centre.

Can I have a water birth?

This will depend upon your local healthcare provider and birthing facility. If you are giving birth at a hospital without a birthing pool, you will need to check in advance whether they will allow you to provide your own. If you are planning a homebirth, you will need to provide your own pool. These can easily be rented or purchased online. Some hospitals and birthing centres have pools now, so you may be able to use one of these. Speak to your healthcare provider for more details.

You may be advised not to have a water birth if you are a high risk pregnancy. You may be encouraged to give birth on dry land if you:

  • Have herpes, because it transfers easily in water
  • Are being induced
  • Have had a previous ceasarean birth
  • Are in preterm labour
  • Have experienced excessive bleeding

When things don’t go to plan

Unfortunately, some women are asked to leave the pool during labour. There are a number of reasons why this could happen to you, including:

  • Your baby showing signs of distress for a prolonged period of time
  • The presence of meconium in your amniotic fluid
  • Vaginal bleeding during labour
  • If you develop a high temperature or high blood pressure

If, on the day, you find that you are asked to leave the pool, don’t panic. Or indeed, if you find that you don’t enjoy labouring in the pool and would like to get out. Stay calm, and remember your birth plan was just that, a plan. Your healthcare provider is there to ensure both you and your baby are safe and well.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Fiona PeacockPlanning a Water Birth

Comments 16

  1. Ama

    Ladies I highly recommend a water birth had 1 with my son in 2013. Was amazing massive rooms neutral colours soft lighting music bath oils. The water helped me with pain . I only had gas and air. Best experience . I had 2 birthing partners they let them eat help themselves to hot drinks etc . This time I am 32 weeks and 2 days am high risk due to fibroid absolutely gutted can’t have a water birth and may have to have a c section will know at 36 weeks when I go for scan ..

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  3. Jane

    I’ve read a bit about this and really made me curious. I’ll search more about this and may be suggest this to my sister who is five months pregnant now. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Monicawood

    My friend had her first baby with water birth and she told me about her experience of water birth delivery. Even I am pregnant I really want to have my first baby with water birth.

  5. Alyssa

    I had a water birth 2 years ago and am planning on having another one in a few weeks(ish). It’s so fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone!! My only problem was that my cord was super short so I had to make sure I was lifted enough out of the water while I birthed the placenta so my baby wouldn’t drown. She was still attached since we were waiting for the cord to finish pulsing. But it all worked out fine. 🙂

  6. Linzi

    I’m 32 weeks and 2 days with my 3rd baby, with my 1st I was 13 days late and induced, 2nd baby I had genistational diabetes and induced 2 weeks early so in hoping all goes to plan this time and I can have a water birth finally 🙂 xx

  7. Fatima

    Hi. Ladies I’m 32 weeks and 2 days today with my first baby I wnt pool birth. I already talk this with my midwife but she sai when I’m 34 weeks. I need to go n talk about my birth plan and to book the pool birth. I love water sine I was a young girl and I always say to my partner I wnt to give birth in the pool but my partner think I’m crazy 😜

  8. Lauren

    I’m hoping to have a water birth this time. Had a normal delivery (as normal as you can get anyway) with my son over 4 years ago. I have had quite bad sciatica for almost 2 years now so warm baths help me on the days I struggle to walk so hopefully being in a birthing pool will ease some of the pain. The hospital I’ll be having my baby at has 2 pools but you can’t book them in advance, for obvious reasons, so I’ve to tell them I would like a water birth when I ring to say I’m in labour. Fingers crossed they have one free 🙂

  9. Amy

    I’m currently 32 weeks + 2 days pregnant with my second. Wanted a water birth with my first but had to be strapped to monitors throughout my labour and birth with him so wasn’t able. This time round I’ve chose to have a home birth and am renting a pool offline, hoping it will be more relaxed and my Son can be involved if he wishes too. Just hope I get it set up and get in on time as when going to the hospital with my first I was already 8-9cm and ready to push! Lol.

  10. Tainisha

    Am 32weeks and 2days pregnant and i would love to try a water birth but i choose the hospital even tho it gone be painful and am not getting a epidural just gone have a normal delivery birth

  11. Dominique

    I would love to try a water birth.. but the hospital I’m going to.. although equip with the pools already.. is not keen on allowing women to stay in during the pushing phase so my midwife says. Hoping I can get away with it.. but we will see I guess..

  12. Kathryn

    I’m 34 weeks with 2nd baby….wanted to try a water birth for my first labour but ended up going for an epidural…don’t think I was prepared for the pain! Hoping this time to try again

  13. Amy

    Cherrie I am also the same, taking clexan every day and will also be induced at around 37/38 weeks due to previous daughter being still born. Do you have thrombiphillia?

  14. Cherrie

    I want a water birth but my pregnancy is high risk and I’m on blood thinners and most likely being induced. 🙁 sad times. X

  15. Joanne

    I’m 30 weeks today and I’m planning on a water birth, I must admit that I always thought it was a bit of a “hippys” way to give birth but after talking to my friend who used a pool I’m quite taken with the idea.

    The hospital I’m going to has a pool that’s like a huge bath and since being pregnant having a bath every night has really helped with my aches and pains and I always relax so thought a water birth would be the perfect option.