So, you've decided that its about time to consider the finer details of your Birth Preference list. As you reach for your notes from the bedside table, glancing at the very top of that 'special' page, you're reminded of that lovely talk you attended last month about water birth.
You stated and highlighted your wish for a 'Water Birth'!
Why did I decide that? What do I need? Can I have a water birth?
Your partner simply rolls their eyes considering this to be simply another of your ‘grand ideas’ and turns over to go back to sleep; after all it is 3am! Ok, its time for a raspberry leaf tea, chocolate biscuit (yes at 3am, why not?) and a good think…
Water has been used for generations not only as a means to quench our thirst or for washing and cooking, but also for a means of relaxation and soothing aches and pains. Who hasn’t put a hot water bottle in to a bed to warm it on a cold night? Who hasn’t stood a little longer under that hot shower at the start of the day to relax and begin to plan the day ahead? And who hasn’t run a deep bath, popped in some bubbles and relaxed till your fingers and toes wrinkled and you looked like your Grandmother; or been disturbed by a knock at the door as someone feared you had drowned? Now imagine stepping in to a deep pool of warm water during the most physically demanding time of your life. Imagine the warmth and comfort water can offer you. Now, that is why you want a water birth. Armed with this information why wouldn't we consider this life giving liquid a useful tool in our perfect birth ’Tool kit’?
"But can I have a water birth?”, you shout! “You tell me all this but would my Midwife or Dr agree?” My answer: Do you want a water birth? If you do then you are the one who needs to ask your midwife/Dr not for permission, but to ask for ways to support you in your decision. Water birth is not just an option for at home, as many Midwife Led Maternity Units and Consultant Led Hospitals are able to offer you the support of birthing in water (please check with your midwife re local policy and guidelines as these differ nationally).
What if my Midwife or Doctor says “No”? Let me assure you, there is no such word as "NO" in optimal healthcare provision, there may only be advice gathered from experience; but this is always backed by the latest evidence based research used to support local Guidelines. Guidelines are not policy and they are certainly not rules, they are there simply to support best care for all. Each individual woman's wants and wishes need to be considered and supported as appropriate. Obviously your care providers will want to keep you and your baby safe as safety is paramount at all times; but we are here to listen and offer support towards your informed decisions. We are your care advocates.
Ok, step down from the ’Soap Box’ back to the blog in hand!
We now need to consider what you, the client and mum-to-be, need? The following are essential to gather alongside your other items for labour and birth that you have started to get ready.
1.A pool! - There are some amazing birth pools available if planning to birth at home. Research widely and find the best fit for you through online or local retailers. No, a paddling pool will not do! You can sometimes obtain a pool via free hire from a local Home Birth group or a friend or relative may have one in the attic. EBay sellers often list pools that were not used or only used once to sell for a very reasonable amount. Always make sure you buy a new liner for each birth.
2. Hot water - Yes, may seem an obvious add to the list but believe me it is no fun getting your pool set up then realising your emersion heater is not working or you have only a small heater that will just cover the bottom in hot water. Consider your water supply.
3. A new garden hose and tap connectors - Well how else are you going to fill the pool? Clean this through with a good sterilising fluid before using.
4. Towels - 6-8 old towels (small hand towels for baby and bath towels for mum) Beg and borrow towels, do not use your best fluffy white towels as they may get a little messy. Babies love to poo on white towels!
5. A sieve - A what? Believe me this is an important bit of equiptment and you will be lost without it. Midwives like to go fishing, not for babies but for other ’bits’ that may float in the pool and need removing!
6. A bucket - This goes with the above - say not more…
7. Plastic sheeting - a tarpaulin sheet for beneath the pool that’s big enough to stretch a little beyond to catch any splashes!
8. A water thermometer - These usually come as part of the birth pool kit but if not you will need to get one of these simple little bath thermometers as we do like to keep an eye on the water temperature during birth. Best if not too hot or cold but comfortable for you.
9. Water Pump/Air Pump - If you borrow or buy a second hand pool, you need to consider how you will blow it up! Its no good relying on your partner to huff and puff as they will not be able to inflate the first ring! Invest in an electric air pump to inflate and then a water pump to empty the pool a little faster as that pool is full of buckets and buckets of water!
10. Space - This may sound obvious to some but please consider the space you have and if a pool will fit. Also consider the structure of your home. If you live in a rented flat above others you may need to consider if the floor is structually sound for a large weight. It is suggested that a pool full of water is the same as 15 guests stood huddled together in one area!
If you can make sure you have a birth pool in your home by around 36-37 weeks this will give you time to practice with a dry run. There is nothing worse than a pool that begins to rapidly deflate, and a sweaty birth partner who is battling to keep the air in!
Last top tips! In case of emergencies a puncture repair kit may help and a good deodarant; after all who really wants a sweaty birth partner?
Now off you go to gather all you need for your perfect water birth!