Planning a water birth at home: all you need to know about birth pools

Following our recent blog post on the benefits of home births, a lot of expectant parents have been in touch to ask whether you can have a water birth at home. In order to shed some light on the options that are available to families who choose to birth at home and in water, we have collected some information on birth pools that we hope you’ll find useful when making your choices.

I am planning a home birth – can I have a birth pool?

The short answer is YES. But there are a few things that you’ll need to consider before you go ahead and make a decision. Broadly speaking you have two options here – you can either buy or hire your birth pool.

To buy or to hire?

Although buying a birth pool can seem like a crazy, unnecessary expense, it may actually work out to be cheaper for you than hiring the pool. This is true if you think you may be able to use your birth pool again for subsequent births, for example. Or even if you’re planning on selling it on once you no longer need it. In case you do buy your own, remember that before each use you will need to ensure that the pool is undamaged and has been sterilised. A new liner will also be required for it.

Birth pools come in different sizes and shapes – some of them are inflatable and are very compact when folded and stored away. Others are made of rigid materials and can’t be packed away as easily. Whichever option you choose, ensure that you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to keep the pool clean and safe.

You can find birth pools and accessories to buy over at Birth Pool in a Box (pools are also available for hire) or at Made in Water. If you’re looking at hiring a birth pool, you should definitely head over to Barefoot Birth Pools, which come highly recommended by Steph and Dean Beaumont (founders of The Natal Family and the MummyNatal and BabyNatal programs), who welcomed their youngest 3 children to the world in Barefoot birth pools.

If you’re hiring, bear in mind that costs will vary depending on pool size and duration of hire, so it’s worth doing some research before you go ahead and make a decision.

Related: read about the birth of their youngest daughter Iris Seren here.

Which type of pool should I get? How big should it be?

To answer these questions, it may be helpful to spend some time thinking about your requirements in this way. So ask yourself:

  • Where in the house will the birth pool go?

How big is the room where you want to keep your birth pool? Do you have any space restrictions? Can you perhaps move furniture around (put it to the side of the room or even into another room) to make space for your birth pool? Don’t forget that your birth partner(s) and midwives will also be in the room with you at some point, by your side. Is there enough room for them to move around, or for yourself, should you wish to go in and out of the pool during labour (to have a break or use the toilet, for example)?

Also, how will you fill it up and empty it? What equipment will you need? How far will you need to be from the nearest tap? Some pools have a pump that allows you to empty the water into the loo, bath, sink, or directly into a drain using a hose. Others won’t. And if it comes to that, you may need to siphoning through a hose or bailing with a bucket. Do any of these factors influence where you will place your pool at all? Once you have answered these questions you should have a better idea of the space you have available, so you can focus on the pools that meet the space requirements you have.

  • How heavy is the pool when filled?

This is quite a key piece of information, and our advice is that you ask the manufacturer before you make the decision to buy or hire your birth pool. Once you know the weight of the pool once it’s at full capacity (i.e. full of water so that you’re covered up to your shoulders) you need to consider whether the floor of the room where you’re planning to position your birth pool is strong enough for it. If you think the flooring on the first floor may not be strong enough, you should definitely consider whether you can have your pool somewhere on the ground floor, for example.

  • Who will need to go into the pool?

Before you buy or hire we strongly recommend that you start thinking about whether you may want your partner or any older children to join you during labour or before the birth. The last thing you want is to get a pool that is definitely too small for all of you and then wish that your partner and/or children could have joined you.

It may also be a good idea to think about whether you would like to use the birth pool to make yourself more comfortable during labour or whether you’d like to give birth in it as well. Bearing in mind that you can always change your mind on the day either way, it’s always good to think about your preferences in advance.

  • What equipment will you need?

When comparing options and prices it’s a good idea to find out what is included with the birth pool vs what you need to hire or purchase separately. This could make a difference not only to the price but also to how convenient a particular option is for you. On top of the liner, pumps, and any other accessories that come with the pool, you may want to also purchase your own inflatable, waterproof pillow or a float – these could help you get more comfortable in the water if you want some additional support.

  • Does the pool come with its own insurance and warranty?

Always check that the birth pool is under warranty for manufacturer’s defects and ask whether an insurance cover is also provided with it.

What should I do when I have the birth pool?

Once you have decided on the perfect birth pool for your personal circumstances, it’s good to also think about the following points.

  • How long does it take to fill the birth pool up?

Once your pool has arrived, it’s a good idea to do a ‘dry run’, just to check how long it takes for it to fill up. The last thing anyone would want is for Mum to be in labour (early or even well-established) and find out that it takes 3 hours to fill the pool up! That could definitely mean not being able to use it at all!

  • Will you be using your pool towards the end of your pregnancy?

Having a birth pool at home can be a great way to relax and get a little more comfortable towards the end of your pregnancy. After all, the size of your bump and the niggles that come with late pregnancy may be starting to take their toll on you. If you do use a birth pool during the last weeks or days of your pregnancy, remember that for hygiene reasons it’s advisable to empty, clean, and refill your pool every 24 hours. Pools that allow the water to be heated for days or weeks are no longer recommended because of the risk of legionella. So if you do have a pool like this, consider using its pump to empty it, rather than heating the water with it.

  • Who will be on hand to make sure that the water temperature is right for you?

If you want your partner to be in the water with you or simply focus on supporting you during labour, you may need to think about having someone else (another birth partner perhaps?) who can help you make sure that the water temperature is right for you. And if you’re wondering how this is done, it’s basically a matter of taking some cold water out and topping the pool up with some more warm or hot water.

Over to you now. Do you have any further questions? Or perhaps you used a birth pool yourself and have some useful tips to share with our expectant parents? Please do let us know!

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