Planning for a water birth: 6 top tips | Labour & birth, Different types of birth articles & support | NCT (2024)

If you’ve decided you want a water birth but you’re unsure how to plan it, here’s how you arrange to get a birthing pool and prepare yourself for using it.

Many women are interested in the idea, but anxious that a pool will not be available, and so miss out on planning a water birth. But there is a way – you can use one on the NHS, hire one or buy one. Here’s how to get a birthing pool and how to prepare yourself for using it.

1. How to find out about NHS birthing pools, or hire one or even buy one

Pools have become more popular so that means midwife-led units and obstetric units have more of them, hooray. Some NHS trusts have pools and your midwife will tell you how many are available locally. You could also look at your local hospital trust’s website to find out which local NHS units have pools. The website Which? Birth Choice can show your options too.

The only snag is that you cannot book hospital and midwife-led centre birthing pools in advance with your midwife. In any case, it’s a good idea to say to them you’re hoping to use one when you contact the midwife when you go into labour.

Anorganisation that might have pools they can lend or hire to you includes your local Positive Birth Movement group.

If it comes to buying one, several companies hire or sell birth pools and you can find them easily on the internet.

2. You can use a birthing pool at home

It’s a little more than a paddling pool and you’d be right in thinking it involves more than sploshing some water in there and hoping for the best. You’ll need to read the information that the pool provider gives you about how to use their particular pool.

Something to remember is that pools should not be left filled and heated before labour starts as it’d be a possible infection risk (Public Health England, 2014). See our article about how to labour in water or have a water birth for more about what to do when things get started. NICE guidelines say that midwives monitor the temperature of pool hourly to make sure the water temperature does not go above 37.5°C (NICE, 2014).

3. Preparing to use a pool in hospital or a birth centre

All staff are trained to use the pool, so try not to worry. If you are nervous about using the pool, you could ask about how your midwife’s training would support you if you need it. You could also ask about equipment like hoists (to remove an unwell woman from the pool) and telemetry (wireless monitoring).

Pools are cleaned between each woman so they’ll be spick and span by the time you get in there.

If a pool is not available your labour room, you are likely to have either a shower or bath that you can use for labour.

4. What you could wear for labouring in water

  • Some women prefer to be naked during labour.
  • Some women choose to wear a T-shirt, crop top, or bikini top. Some will keep knickers on during labour until near the end, and others take them off when they get into the water.When the baby is born, women will be encouraged to put their baby on them skin-to-skin, so this might mean taking off a T-shirt at that point.
  • Dry clothes for when you get out of the water.
  • Towels for when you get out.

5. What you might want for a water birth

  • A jug to pour water over the bump or back.
  • Something to pad the floor of the pool, or to lean on in the water or over the side of the pool.
  • Birth supports like straws, massage aids, music and a helpful birth partner.

6. How your NCT antenatal course can help you to prepare

Going to an NCT antenatal coursewill help to prepare you for the different ways of working with pain in labour. The teacher will talk about water births in more or less depth depending on the course length, what the women attending need and pool availability in your area. They are likely to direct you to sources of information about what birth pools are available at local NHS trusts, and gain an understanding of water as a form of pain relief.

This page was lastreviewed in March2019, amended December 2023.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courseswhich are a great way to find out more about pregnancy, labour and life with a new baby.

You could take a look at AIMS for support finding your way through the maternity services system.

If you want support with or to make your voice heard about the maternity service you are receiving, you can contact Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVP).

To view and compare your maternity options locally, you can look at the Which? Birth Choice website.

NICE. (2014) CG190 Intrapartum care. Available at: [Accessed 13th November 2018]

Public Health England (2014) Patient safety alert: Legionella and heated birthing pools filled in advance of labour in home settings. Available at: [Accessed 4th March 2019]

Planning for a water birth: 6 top tips | Labour & birth, Different types of birth articles & support | NCT (2024)


What are the nice guidelines for waterbirth? ›

When can't I labour or birth in water? The NICE guidelines say that all 'healthy women and babies... between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation' should be offered the opportunity to labour in water .

What is water birth What are the benefits advantages and disadvantages of water birth? ›

Water Birth Pros and Cons: Is It Safe?
Pros of Water BirthCons of Water Birth
Helps ease labor painsMight increase the risk of Infection for the baby or the birthing parent
Can reduce the need for medication or interventionsCould make it difficult to clear a newborn's airway if they inhale meconium
2 more rows
Sep 26, 2023

What happens if you poop during water birth? ›

When this happens in a birth pool, the stool can be removed with the strainer. This strainer is included in the Standard Kit that is provided when you buy a birth pool with us. The strainer is also used to remove any other debris—such as blood clots—from the water before emptying the pool.

Are water births less painful? ›

Benefits of laboring in water

A positive birth experience: Women who have labored or given birth in water say they had less pain and a greater sense of control. Less pain medication: Some studies show that women who labor in water need less pain medication and may have a shorter first stage of labor.

What are the disadvantages of a water birth? ›

Water Birth Risks
  • You or your baby could get an infection.
  • The umbilical cord could snap before your baby comes out of the water.
  • Your baby's body temperature could be too high or too low.
  • Your baby could breathe in bath water.
  • Your baby could have seizures or not be able to breathe.
Sep 11, 2022

Why do hospitals not allow water births? ›

Pediatricians are most concerned with the potential risk of aspiration, hypothermia, and infection when babies are born in water.

How risky is water birth? ›

Cons of Waterbirth. Waterbirth leads to a higher risk of newborn cord avulsion, or snapping. With waterbirths, the baby might be lifted out of the water too quickly, and this might cause the umbilical cord to snap, especially if there is an abnormally short cord.

Are water births high risk? ›

Are there other risks? Waterbirth is extremely safe and evidence from numerous studies have confirmed the many advantages of giving birth in water, for both mothers and babies. However, there have been very rare documented cases of drowning, rupture of the umbilical cord, respiratory problems and waterborne infection.

Why do people prefer water birth? ›

Ease of movement – Some women find that laboring in water helps them feel lighter, find more comfortable positions, and move about more freely during labor. Improved circulation – This can help mom have more efficient contractions and deliver more oxygen to baby. Reduced risk of tearing due to a more relaxed body.

Does insurance cover a water birth? ›

There's usually no separate fee for laboring in a tub in a hospital, and your insurance will probably cover most of it (though you'll have to check your policy). The fees for a midwife for a home water birth or birth center water birth are usually included in whatever they charge for a normal birth.

How do babies not drown during water birth? ›

Don't worry, your baby won't drown. If your baby is born in the water, they are brought gently to the surface by the mother or midwife. The baby will not breathe until they meet the air, and they continue to get oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Why did I poop when I gave birth? ›

The uterus and small bowel are not only close in proximity — they're also made up of the same type of muscle. Pushing during labor also uses many of the same muscles and mechanisms as a bowel movement. So when you add these factors together, yes, many people do poop a little bit during labor.

Is it okay to poop after giving birth? ›

Instead of dreading that first bowel movement after birth, recognize it as a normal part of the postpartum process. As you heal, the pooping routine will get easier—and you'll be on your way to feeling like your regular self.

Is it okay to poop after labor? ›

“With a vagin*l delivery, it may not be very delayed,” she says. “You may poop in that first day or two after delivery.” Pooping after a C-section, however, can be a different story. “Sometimes, after a C-section, the bowels can take some time to wake up since you've just gone through a major surgery,” explains Dr.

Can you choose to have a water birth? ›

It is your choice and you can decide your preference at the time. the water by the midwife or yourself. Your midwife will give you verbal guidance and emotional support during this time. Once the baby has been born the head must not go back into the water in order to prevent inhaling water.

How many weeks do you have to be to have a water birth? ›

Generally, if you are healthy and between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant and have had an uncomplicated pregnancy with no serious medical illnesses or complications and if your BMI was less than 35 when you met your midwife for your first appointment and where applicable, your previous pregnancy and labour were normal then a ...

Why don t hospitals offer water births? ›

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that while water may provide some benefits in the first stage of labor, there isn't evidence yet to support benefits for the baby. So, while ACOG says it's okay to labor in water, they recommend “delivering on land.”

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