You have choose the right care provider, the right place for your birth and you have decided on warm water immersion for your labor and your birth.
What will your labor and birth be like?
How will it be different then a ‘land birth’?
Testing & Trial Runs
We strongly recommend that you inflate your birth pool when you receive it to be certain that it is in perfect condition. We also recommend that you do a trial run with your pool. This will help you and your birth partner know how long it takes to inflate and fill your birth pool. If you will be having a doula or a friend assisting you, it would be wise to have them attend your trial run.
The material that waterbirth pools are made from can easily damage if handled when cold. If outdoor temperatures are below 50 degrees, leave your pool in its box for at least 48 hours to allow the pool material to warm before handling. Removing the pool from the box and unfolding it while cold can cause the material to crack.
Once the pool is warm, unfold it and inflate. It is easier if you inflate the floor first then the sides to firm. DO NOT OVER INFLATE YOUR POOL. Inflate to firm enough that when you lean on the sides it does not dip more then two or three inches. Let the pool stand for several minutes. Add more air if the pool has softened as it is normal for the material to stretch a bit. Now let the pool stand for at least 12 hours to be certain it does not loose any air. This test will prove that you have no air leaks or factory defects in your pool.
It can be time saving, especially if you anticipate a quick labor, to leave your birth pool inflated while you wait to go into labor. It is very important to remember to not leave your water birth pool rigidly inflated as this places undue pressure on your pools seams. Simply remove enough air from all the pools air chambers to soften it slightly. When you go into labor all you need to do is top off the pool with air to make it firm again.
During this testing take the time to hook up your water hose to your water source. Make certain that your faucet or shower hose adapter fits your plumbing and that your hose attaches correctly and is long enough to fill and to empty your pool.
The W ater
Turning your hot water heater up to at least 140 degrees will help ensure that you have plenty of hot water for your pool, showers, laundry and cleaning. This should be done around 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Body temperature is the temperature the water should be for labor and birth. When you first fill the pool during labor, start with water a bit warmer, around 100 degrees but only fill the pool half way. The pool material will be the same temperature of the house and will absorb some of the heat out of the water especially if the house is on the cool side. Once the pool is half full, add mom and adjust the temperature to her liking. Use your elbow to see that it is neutral to feel – body temperature or use a floating thermometer. We will talk lower in this article about maintaining water temperature during labor and water temperature after the birth.
Dechlorinating water filters can also be used to remove or convert chlorine.
During this check you will want to take notes on the water depth that seems right for you. Most women labor on their hands and knees in labor and during pushing will straighten their backs and be in a squatting position. After the birth, mothers will sit and hold their baby to their chest and initiate breast feeding when ready. The depth of your water should accommodate all these position changes without you having to adjust the water level.
So, how deep should your pool be? Fill the pool half way. Add mom and continue filling until the depth is just below her breasts when sitting. This depth will allow you to nurse your baby after delivery without having to remove water, add a stool or get out of the pool.
Next, check this dept of water in the hands and knee position and leaning forward on the pool resting. You want your belly to hang in the water but it is likely that only a portion of your bottom will be submerged. That will be fine. Remember, when you go to deliver the baby, you will likely straighten your back and lower your bottom.
When to set up, inflate and fill the pool
Once you know that you are in labor it is a good idea to set up your pool area and inflate your water birth pool. Place plastic sheeting or a shower curtain on the floor (optional). Place a flat bed sheet over the plastic which will prevent mom from slipping with wet feet. The pool goes over the top of this.
Inflate the floor then the sides of the pool. Inflate to firm enough that the pool only dips down two to three inches when leaned on.
Depending on how long it takes to fill your pool with water, as low water pressure in your home may mean that it can take well over 30 minutes, you may want to add water to your pool as soon as contracts become strong enough to take your full attention. This means that you stop talking and walking and focus.
Fill the pool half way with water a bit warmer then body temperature. 100 degrees is good. The pool material will absorb some of the warmth.
Here is a list of household supplies that are helpful
- 4 large bath towels for mom
- 4 large towels for water clean up
- 3-4 hand towels for mom
- 3-4 wash cloths for mom
- laundry basket for wet items
- medium bowl for cold water to cool mom
- large bowl for nauseous mom
- medium bucket can be used if mom needs to pee and can’t get out of the pool
- two large soup pots for boiling water : )
Have several large towels close by for mom to use for drying when she steps out of the pool. Several more towels to take care of water on the floor is a good idea. Most moms will appreciate having a dry hand towel between them and the pool when they rest their head on the top of the pool. Several wash clothes will also prove valuable for dipping in cold water when mom is either too hot or feeling nauseous.
A laundry basket is great for tossing wet towels and clothes into. A small bucket is always good to have handy if mom is not able to get out of the pool and needs to pee. Have her stand, catch and dump. Simple as that.
Anytime mom wants to! Many care providers have specific ideas about when to enter the water. It is common to be told to wait until you are at least 5 centimeters. This is based on the concept that entering the water too soon will slow down labor. There is really no solid evidence of this occurring and it is possible that what appears to be a ‘slow down’ in labor is just a women more comfortable in the water and showing less discomfort from her contractions.
So enter the water when you are uncomfortable. If, by chance, your labor does slow down or it seems that your labor has stopped, simply get out of the pool for an hour or two to see if things pick up. Get back in when you want to.
There is no right or wrong way to position your body in the water birth pool. BUT… keep this in mind. Upright positions are typically more comfortable and allow your baby to more easily move through your pelvis. That said, we have seen over and over again that women, without being told, will naturally position themselves in upright positions.
Once labor is active, most women will move their body into a hands and knee position or forward leaning on the pool during contractions and either stay that way or move into a sitting position between contractions.
We have a very strong opinion about this. NO! Except… when you really want them to join you in the pool. Why? We have seen 100% of the time that when a partner is in the water birth pool, the mother stops moving. Keep in mind that in the water for pain management and for ease of movement. Moving your body freely is very important in labor and birth. This natural movements help your baby move through your pelvis.
What we see when a partner is in the water is the father sitting on his bottom with the birthing mother sitting between his legs on her bottom. Is this bad? No. But, dad is now some what trapped and mom is on her bottom. In this position, dad is basically a leaning post but, we do understand that this does offer lots of touch comfort for the mother.
In this situation, the partner is also limited to meeting the mother’s needs. It is important, in our opinion, that the father/birth partner be the one to tend to the mother’s needs as much as possible. Birth is an intimate and bonding experience and the mother’s memories need to be more about the father/birth partner then the care providers. When he is sitting behind the laboring mother, he is unable to get her food, cold towels, water, etc. Also, I have seen many partners unable to view the birth because of being in this position.
With dad outside of the pool there are so many more options available to him. If you have a birth ball, keep it close by. It is perfect for sitting on next to the pool. Being outside of the pool allows your partner to be free to experience the birth the way he wants to. If you decide you really want him in the pool, go for it.
How is water labor and birth different then land birth?
When you talk to women who have labored and birth both on land and in the water they will tell you 100% of the time that there is a huge difference. The number one difference that is talked about is the reduction of pain and the increased relaxation and freedom to move. Most women will feel immediate relief when the get into warm water. We call this the “Ah” response. This does not mean that you will have no discomfort but most women say that the intensity of labor and birth is dramatically reduced in warm water.
It is rare to have a woman want to leave the water once she gets into her water birth pool. Even those women planning to only labor in warm water will typically change their mind and stay in the pool to birth.
Laboring in warm water typically results in the birthing mother being quieter and calmer. We see better quality of contractions as well as more enhanced rest between contractions. We even see women fall into deep sleep in between contractions. We also see babies being calmer immediately after birth. It is common for them to not cry and quietly look into their mother’s eyes. The picture to the left is what is most commonly seen between mother and baby after water birth.
Another nice difference between land and water birth is the clean factor. Mother and baby come out of the water birth pool rinsed off. Much nicer then birthing on a land. You also use a lot less birth supplies when a mother labors and births in water. And clean up is easy and simple with “everything” in the pool.