Having a home birth

Having a home water birth

6 min read

From the strength of your floor to the costs of the birth pool, find out everything you need to know about having a water birth in your own home.

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You can hire or buy a birth pool to use during labour if you’re planning a home birth and want to have a water birth. It’s good to start planning well ahead of your due date, as there are several things you need to consider. Make sure you’re prepared by running through the questions below.

What are the benefits of a home water birth?

If you’re having an uncomplicated pregnancy and this isn’t your first baby, a home birth is as safe for your baby as a hospital birth. If you’re a first-time mother or at increased risk of complications, read more about home births to find out if it would be right for you. If you’re still deciding where you want to give birth, our Birth Choice tool will help you to choose.

It’s not uncommon to use water during a home birth. Half of first time mothers planning to give birth at home use water for pain relief, and for women who have had babies before, just over one in four choose to use water in labour.

Being in water during your home birth can make you feel relaxed, allow you to get into more comfortable positions and can help you to manage pain. Depending on how you feel, you can either get out of the water before your baby is born, or stay in the pool throughout labour to have a water birth.

If you were in in a labour ward or birth centre, using water in labour would just be a case of turning on the tap, but at home you have to hire or buy the pool yourself, so you need to consider whether your home is suitable.

Practical considerations for a home water birth

Is the floor strong enough?

If you’re planning to use your birth pool upstairs or you live in a flat, you have to make sure that your floor can take the weight of a pool full of water.

A filled birth pool with you in it can weigh almost 800kg. This is about the same as 11 people, and in addition there will probably be a couple of midwives and at least one birth partner in the room. So if your upstairs floor is strong enough to hold 15 people for a day, chances are it will also be fine with a birth pool.

If in doubt, contact the pool manufacturers for more guidance.

Is there enough room for a birth pool?

Birth pools come in different sizes, but the smallest are still around 170 x 135cm. If you think about it, it’s the same as having a small jacuzzi in your living room.

It’s a good idea to measure your room before ordering your birth pool. Remember that the midwife needs to be able to sit next to the pool, and that you have to be able to get in and out easily. It’s worth shopping around if you don’t find a suitable pool straightaway – look for a company that makes compact pools, as these may be a better fit for your home.

Having a small birth pool doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A lot of women practising hypnobirthing deliberately choose a small pool, as it makes them feel more enclosed and secure.

Is there easy access to hot water to fill the pool?

Make sure there are no glitches on the big day and practise filling and draining the pool before you go into labour. You’ll need a long enough hose to go from the tap to the room with the pool, and enough hot water to fill it.

Since you may be in the pool for quite a while, you also need to be able to add more hot water to keep the temperature comfortable throughout labour.

How will the pool be drained after the birth?

You can either use a pump to empty the birth pool or use a bucket to scoop out the water. If you’re using a pump, it’s better to have it go to the toilet, as the water may not go down fast enough in your kitchen sink. If you gave birth in the pool, it’s a good idea to use a sieve to get any bits out before using the pump, so your hose doesn’t end up blocked.

Whatever option you choose, emptying the pool is probably best left to your partner, as you’re likely to be sore and in need of a rest after the birth.

Buying or hiring a birth pool

Setting up a birth pool at home doesn’t have to be expensive.

Hiring a pool is a popular option and generally costs less than £100. If you want to buy a pool, it could cost up to £400.

When is the birth pool needed by?

Plan to have the pool delivered to your home by the 37th week of your pregnancy so you’re prepared in case your baby arrives before its due date. This will also give you time for a practice run of filling and emptying the pool.

If you go into labour before 38 weeks or after 42 full weeks of pregnancy, your midwife is likely to recommend that you don’t have a home birth, as there could be higher risks of complications for your baby.

Read more about the safety of home births and how to negotiate your care if you’ve been told you’re at higher risk of complications.

Can I use my bathroom?

Before your home birth, it’s worth clearing space in your bathroom and giving your bath or shower a good clean. Even if you’re not planning on a water birth, during labour you might decide that you’d like to try using water for pain relief, and your shower or bath might be able to provide this.

While it’s unlikely that the bath will be deep enough to support your weight in the same way that a birth pool might, you could still benefit from the heat and comfort that the water may provide.

Can I use a pre-heated birth pool?

Public Health England is advising people not to use heated birth pools that are filled before labour begins, and where the temperature is maintained by a heater and a pump. This is because the legionella bug, which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, was found in some of these particular birth pools.

Most birthing pools rented or bought for use at home are filled from domestic hot water after you go into labour, and there is no health concern about using these pools. If you have any worries about the pool you were hoping to use, contact your midwife or the pool manufacturer.

If your home is too small or otherwise not suitable for a birth pool but using water in labour is important to you, you may feel more comfortable planning to have your baby in a birth centre.

Use our Birth Choice tool to explore birth centre and labour ward options in your area.

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