Across the Republic of Ireland a small number of maternity units are equipped for waterbirth with water pools specifically designed for use by women in labour. Water has a strong research base behind it to suggest that it is effective not only to help relieve labour pain, but also in helping to shorten the duration of labour, as well as helping to reduce the incidence of tearing during your baby’s birth.
Types of water pools
There may often be a number of different types of pools available to use. The water pools in hospitals and birth centres can be various shapes and sizes and are usually made of rigid plastic, so they can be maintained and cleaned easily. If you want to know if this is an option in your chosen maternity unit call them to confirm and arrange a visit if possible.
Water pools also come in a moveable structure which are used for births at home. They are mostly inflatable, and the most popular brand is “Birth Pool in a Box”. They come with all the necessary kit, such as a hose, pump and liner, that you will need for your waterbirth at home. These pools can be bought, hired or sometimes loaned to you for a donation- check what is available in your local area or ask at your local homebirth support group.
Where can I have a waterbirth?
You can have a waterbirth at home with a homebirth team, community midwifery team or an independent midwife.
Not all, but a small number of hospitals have water pools available in their labour wards. Waterbirth rates are higher at maternity units who have midwives experienced in active and normal birth practices.
If you want to be supported to have a waterbirth, you can check which units near you have a water pool available
You may decide to use the water pool during labour only or you may decide to give birth in there too. It is perfectly safe for your baby to be born underwater as your baby doesn’t take their first breath until they are brought to the surface.
What are the benefits of using a water pool in labour?
- Water is known to provide effective pain relief for contractions and is also known for its relaxing and therapeutic qualities generally.
- Water can be very relaxing during labour and in some studies has even been shown to have the ability to lower your blood pressure.
- It can shorten both the 1st and 2nd stages of labour, making labour a quicker and easier process.
- It has been proven that you reduce the risk of tearing during the birth by using water in labour.
- You may feel that the water works so well that you don’t need any other form of stronger pain relief, however you can also use gas and air whilst in the pool too.
- You may feel much more able to move around and use active birth positions within the water pool, as it supports your body’s weight better than being on dry land.
- Women often feel they have more privacy and control as there is some ‘distance’ between themselves and their midwives/others when they are in the pool. Women feel more able to zone out due to the relaxing qualities of water and this can help labour to progress more quickly.
- Babies born into water often appear calmer after their birth.
Why might my midwife ask me to leave the pool?
- If your waters break and there is meconium in them (your baby has had a poo and most units would suggest your baby needs closer monitoring).
- If you start to lose too much blood (this is more common after your baby has been born) as it is safer and easier to measure blood loss and treat you outside of the pool.
- If the pool water needs draining and replacing for any reason e.g. If you were to be sick in the pool water.
- If your midwife thought there was a problem developing with you or your baby that needed monitoring more closely (for example if your temperature increased).
Water is reported by many women to be very effective pain relief in labour, which in turn enables women to remain more relaxed and in control. Water also has several other important benefits that can be helpful during labour and birth.