You’ve made the decision to labor and birth in water. Or perhaps to just labor in water. Now what? Here are some steps that will help.
1) Home, Hospital, or Birth Center
Where you choose to birth will make a lot of difference. Read our page: Where to Water Birth to help you decide which decision is best for you. Each place will lead you through a bit different process in preparing for your water labor and birth.
2) Read, Learn, Ask
Some good books to read are:
- Water Birth – A Midwife’s Perspective by Susanna Napierala
- Gentle Birth Choices (2005) by Barbara Harper
- Choosing Waterbirth: Reclaiming the Sacred Power of Birth by Lakshmi & Roads
- The Water Birth Book by Janet Balaskas
There are also lots of great waterbirths to watch on the internet. We have several links here: Birth Video Clips
- Born In Water: A Sacred Journey
- Water Labour, Water Birth by Annie Sprague
- All About Water Birthing by Monica Smith
- Birth As We Know It
Talk to women who have had both ‘land’ births and water births. Know the facts about water birth. You will be asked a lot of questions by those who do not understand the basics of water labor and birth. Our link About Water Birth will provide you with lots of information.
We created a FAQ to help answer the most basic questions about water birth with the #1 question being: “What keeps the baby from breathing underwater?” Read our Water Birth FAQ and learn this and many more answers about water birth.
3) The Right Care Provider For You
Now you have learned about water labor and birth and know that where you birth: at home or the hospital, and who you birth with: traditional midwife, doctor, nurse midwife; will affect your labor and birth experience.
So how do you select the right care provider? Go back to your reference list that has what is important to you. Choose the care provider that best matches your values and agrees with your choices. Do not make the mistake that many women make in thinking that they will ‘educate’ their care provider into changing. They are who they are and you would be wise to accept that they are not likely to change for your birth.
Read our Care Providers link. You will not find much information on our sites about doctors. I will not lie here – I am strongly pro midwife. I know there are doctors out their that support and facilitate natural childbirth but they typically attend birth in the hospital and, in general, hospital labor and birth are very medicalized.
Water labor and birth, in and of itself, dictates a natural experience. Mothers and babies with complications will likely not labor and birth in water. Mothers who want pain medications during labor will likely not labor and birth in water.
Find a doctor who has a very low induction, epidural and caesarean section rate and you might find a doctor who understands and embraces water labor and birth.
You may need to interview several care providers to find the right match… but it is worth it! Don’t compromise.
4) Location, Location, Location
You have decided on home, hospital or birth center
Now to decide where in that location to set up your water birth pool. The hospital and birth center will likely not give you options. At home, you have some decisions to make.
Privacy: Pick a location that allows you to feel cozy and private.
Space: You need to place your pool in an area that allows the midwife to reach you from all sides. Having 3 feet or more all around the pool is ideal.
Water source and dump site: Select a location that allows a 25 ft or 50 ft water hose to reach from your water source: kitchen sink or shower pipe. Also decide where you plan to dump the water after the birth. The bath tub or shower is ideal. Some home owners choose to ‘fertilize’ their roses and bushes. Dumping into a sink does not work well.
5) Supplies – What You Need
Now for the shopping…
Where you have your baby will dictate your shopping needs. We will start with homebirth and follow with hospital and birth centers.
Homebirth: If you are having a home labor and birth, you will need to have a pool, liner, and several accessories. Talk to your midwife to see what supplies she will provide and what specific accessories she wants you to buy.
Birth Center Birth: Typically the birth center will have a built in birthing tub or their own inflatable water birth pools for you to use. Ask them what accessories they want you to buy.
Hospital Birth: It is unusual for most hospitals in the USA to be fully set up for waterbirth. If your hospital is, then that is great. They should have everything you need but be sure to have a conversation with your care provider and the labor and delivery department of your hospital by 34 weeks to learn more.
If your hospital is not set up and is allowing you to bring in your own supplies you will likely need to purchase everything. Read more about our pools below. We strongly advise that you purchase our Professional Water Birth System as it will have all the supplies you will need in the hospital. To read more about water labor and birth in the hospital setting go to: Water Birth at Your Hospital.
Water birth pool: We only sell inflatable birth pools for two very important reasons: Comfort & Cost!
Inflatable water birth pools are unquestionably the most comfortable pool or tub you can labor in. Soft to sit in and lean on. Inflatable pools are portable and very quick to inflate and deflate.
COST: Inflatable pools range from $30 to $400. View our Birth Pool Comparison Chart for a good overview of inflatable pools. All of these pools do the same thing: hold water. It is the water that provides the therapy. The comfort and relaxation. But how to choose.
Money is a deciding factor for many people. You will be happy with the fishy pool. I recommend the smaller Aquarium Pool as the Ocean Reef pool is just too big and takes up too much space, hot water and time to inflate and fill with water.
La Bassine Birthing Pool is, by far, our most popular pool out selling all other pools 4 to 1. La Bassine, Birth Pool in a Box and Aquaborn are similar in quality and material. The difference is mainly the price. La Bassine is a simple design and a bit smaller then the other two but the quality is the same.
You will be happy with any of these three brands of pools. Individuals only need to consider the ‘single use’ pools. The PRO grade pools are designed stronger for multiple babies and uses per year.
DO NOT buy a PRO grade pool with the intention to use it for the next baby. The material these pools are made out of degrades over time and may develop leaks over time. The PRO pools are for midwives and are guaranteed to hold up structurally for one to two years or for 10 or more uses.
Must Have Supplies for the Pool
You will have to have these three things: Air pump to inflate the pool, a water hose to add water, and a hose adapter to attach the water hose to either your kitchen sink or your shower pipe (where shower head screws on). Pool Liners are a must for easy clean up after your birth. Drain the water in your pool down to just a couple gallons then remove the liner and dump the water and throw the liner away. Far less work then having to remove oily vernix, blood, and miconium from your pool. Now you can simply wipe your pool down with cleaning wipes, let it dry and put it away.
Here are my favorite supplies for waterbirth:
“Y” Hose Adapter & Cap: This is attached to the faucet or shower adapter that you bought. Now you attach your water hose to one side of the “Y” and the other side allows you to draw water off of the sink or shower. The End Cap one of my favorite tools. After you fill your pool with water you now have a hose that is still full of water. Instead of draining the hose (which isn’t easy), simply screw the End Cap onto the pool end of the hose and set it on the ground.
Debris Removal Net: This is a priceless addition to your water birth. When we push our babies out, we push our poop out of our colon. So… use this net to scoop and dump unwanted chunks in your birth pool. Here is another trick I like to share: Put a single layer of 4×4 gauze or a small square of paper towel in the net before you go in for the scoop. When you go to dump, the gauze or paper towel and the unwanted chunk all go into the garbage. Without the gauze or the paper towel the poo will stick to the net and not come off and then be dragged through the water on your next scoop.
Light and Mirror: When allowed to position herself, almost all women will labor and push on their hands and knees or in a squat. Placing a mirror on the floor or the pool between the birthing mother’s legs and with the aid of a flashlight, the midwife and birth partner can monitor and watch the baby’s head deliver. Underwater lights are great as they provide a better light. Regular flashlights when shined from above the water does not provide good visibility. The light breaks up. Underwater lights provide very good, clear light. Shine the light on the mirror and it will bounce up to the mom’s bottom.
Other items of interest:
Dechlorinating Water Filter: We have found a filter that will convert the chlorine in your city water to harmless chloride. We sell them with adapters to fit either your kitchen sink or shower.
Want to stay dry? Our Protective Gowns are a handy addition to your birth supplies for your partner or midwife. We also sell the best shoulder length gloves on the market.
Protect your floor with a Protective Floor Liner. This 8′ x 8′ sheet will protect your carpet or hardwood floors. Trick: place the plastic liner on the floor then top with a flat bed sheet. This will prevent mom from slipping on the plastic with her wet feet when getting out of the pool.
When to buy your pool and supplies
We strongly recommend that you order your supplies by 35 or 36 weeks of pregnancy. This will allow for a week for shipping and time to check that your pool and supplies are in good working order. Typically you will be allowed to stay home for labor and birth after 37 weeks so you want all your supplies by then.
Preparing your home
There are a few things you will want to do to prepare your home for your water labor and birth. At 37 weeks of pregnancy turn your hot water tank up to at least 140 degrees. This will help ensure that you have plenty of hot water to fill your pool. Take precautions with family members to prevent scalds.
You will also want to do a ‘dry run’ with your birth pool. Check the following:
- Electrical outlets are close enough to the location of your water birth pool for using your electric air pump and your electric water draining pump.
- Your water hose is long enough to fill your water birth pool from your water source – kitchen sink or shower pipe.
- Your water hose is long enough to drain your water birth pool into your bathtub or into your flower bed.
- You have enough privacy. Curtains or sheets on the windows. Lighting that can be raised and lowered. Close proximity to a bathroom.
- There is at least three feet on all sides of the pool for the midwife to move around and plenty of room on at least one side to get mom out of the pool and down onto the floor if there is a need to do so.