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What is a birthing pool?

From size, shape and even colour, here's everything you need to know when choosing a birthing pool for your water birth.

By Today's Parent
What is a birthing pool?

Photo: iStockphoto

If you're having a water birth, you'll need a tub or pool to deliver your baby in. While some women have the option to deliver at a birth centre, many women who choose to give birth in the water either need to use their tub at home, or rent or buy a special birthing pool.

There are some practical matters to consider when choosing what kind of tub or pool to use, says Jasmin Tecson, a registered midwife with Sages-Femmes Rouge Valley Midwives in Toronto. “Ideally, there should be space for at least two midwives to be in the bathroom, near the tub. Corner tubs work well. Shower-tubs aren’t ideal, but we’ve made them work,” she says. “I’ve always been able to see without getting in at the end of the tub.” Tecson says you don’t have to do anything special to sterilize the tub, though most of her clients do a thorough cleaning before their due date. “Vaginal birth is never truly sterile under any circumstances,” she explains.

Barbara Harper, registered nurse and author of Gentle Birth Choices, says the most important consideration when choosing a birthing pool is the depth. “You want enough water to allow for squatting, kneeling and position changes,” says Harper, who also has more than 30 years experience as a doula. The water should be at least 40 centimeters deep, however 60 centimeters is ideal.

If your bathroom is short on space, you might consider renting or buying a birth pool to set up in the living room or a bedroom. It should be big enough for you to sit and recline comfortably with your belly submerged; you need to be able to get out of it quickly if needed; and it should be small enough for midwives to reach in and assist, if they need to be more hands-on. “The bottom of the tub or pool should be light-coloured so we can assess the fluid in the tub,” adds Tecson.

“The less expensive portable inflatable tubs are usually smaller, not as thick-sided, and not as sturdy,” Harper says. The size could be an issue if you’d like your partner in the tub with you while you labour. Professionally designed birth pools have all the bells and whistles, including padded floors, handles, straps, covers, heaters and liners. Because of the ability to change liners, you can purchase one secondhand, or resell yours afterwards. “Professional pools might be well worth the investment of a few hundred dollars for the comfort they provide,” Harper says.

A popular product is birth pool in a box, an inflatable tub that’s filled with water from your sink (using a hose attachment) and then drained through a toilet. It has a seat for you to sit on, a disposable liner for easy cleanup and strategically placed handles to grip when pushing or enduring a contraction. The sides are sturdy enough for a midwife or partner to sit or lean on.

Another tip from Tecson: check the capacity of your hot water tank ahead of time. “Several times we’ve run out of hot water and had to boil some, which always feels like such a cliché,” she says.

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