Water births currently represent a small fraction of births in the UK, but they are growing in popularity - advocates claim using a birthing pool can calm and relax a woman during labour, as well as providing pain relief and faster contractions.
Maybe you've been wondering about choosing a water birth or perhaps it's an option you may not have considered before. Either way, we've got the answers to your questions about water birth.
What is a water birth like?
Most of the experience is up to you. You can get in the water from the onset of labour or wait until later. Once in the pool, you can change positions to see what works for you (ie. squatting, floating), or get out for a while and walk around. You may like to have your birth partner join you in the pool.
Some women choose to give birth in the water, while others labour in the pool but get out to actually give birth – babies don't start breathing until they feel air on their face, being delivered into the water won't harm them.
You will probably be advised to leave the pool to deliver the placenta – this is because some women feel faint during this final stage and this can become tricky if you remain in the water.
You will have a midwife on hand who will make sure the water stay at 37 degrees or below, check the progress of your labour and monitor you and your baby's vital signs throughout.
How do I organise a water birth?
First, you need to decide whether you want a water birth at home or at the hospital. If you'd rather give birth in hospital, you need to see if your local NHS maternity ward has water birthing facilities – the majority do.
If you want to give birth at home, you can buy or hire a pool from one of the many companies who offer this service - your midwife can put you in touch with them. Alternatively, your local midwifery unit might have one you can borrow.
You also need to consider the logistics of having a birthing pool at home – where will you put the pool? Can you get it into your home easily? How will you empty it after the birth?
These are questions that many parents-to-be can forget in the exciting run-up to giving birth, but they are important nonetheless.
If you are hiring a pool, the provider, whether a private company or the local midwifery team, may be able to help with the logistics – and never hesitate to consult your midwife to get an experienced opinion on the practicalities of a home water birth.
Is it safe?