A birthing aid is a piece of apparatus that helps women to achieve an active birth and cope with the pain of contractions. Birthing aids can also help to improve the position of the woman's body when she actually gives birth.
Birthing aids generally comprise birthing pools, birthing chairs and birthing balls. The most commonly acknowledged aid is the birthing pool, which effectively soothes the pain of contractions from the constantly maintained warm water. The water also provides buoyancy to the woman as she progresses through her labour; and the baby's arrival into warm water is also believed to be less stressful for the infant.
Birthing chairs are an increasingly popular option, and offer a much better position for a woman giving birth as gravity assists in pushing the baby out. The squat position of the chair also allows natural movement of the pelvis, which is beneficial for both mother and baby.
Birthing balls assist women in staying upright and active. This upright position combined with constant movement helps the baby move into the best positions throughout labour and childbirth; and rocking the hips also aids the progress of the contractions.
Women opting for a hospital birth may have to provide these aids herself, although more and more hospitals now provide birthing aids in special active labour rooms. Therefore, a pregnant woman should discuss these options with her midwife, who will be able to advise on the hospital's policy.
Other complementary aids can include music and low-level lighting, which will serve to relax the woman and remove as much tension as possible.