Many women opt for a water birth today, which can make it seem the new ‘normal’ but one thing the Maternity Nurse Company team knows is that there is no such thing as a ‘normal birth’. Every birth is different and every woman needs different approaches to her birth plan. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if this approach is for you.

The pros of a water birth include

  • Warm water is a natural pain reliever – for mums who want a drug free labour, this can be a major consideration
  • Relaxation – a birth pool can also help you relax, the movement of the water and its temperature can benefit your mood and allow you to feel more in control of the contraction process
  • Mood management – many couples find that being able to dim the lights, play some music, light candles etc helps them feel ‘in charge’ of their birth. A water pool is the ultimate mood changer, giving an intimate, personalised sense to the labour
  • Calmer baby – there is anecdotal evidence that women believe water-born babies are calmer because the water is similar to the experience of being in the uterus

The cons can include

  • Discomfort – some women open their bowels when the baby is due to deliver. This can cause them intense embarrassment although midwives are used it happening
  • Infection – there’s a risk of infecting your baby if you do open your bowels. However, there’s no evidence to suggest a higher infection rate in water births and NHS guidelines are very clear about how pools should be cleaned. If you hire a birthing pool, be very sure that you’re confident it’s been thoroughly cleaned
  • Limited hospital access – women who want a water birth in hospital often find the pool is being used by another woman, is out of order or the hospital doesn’t have the staff to manage a water birth
  • Cost – private hire or purchase of a birth pool is expensive!
  • Limited pain relief – some women find that a birthing pool doesn’t reduce their pain levels and having to get in and out of the pool for pain relief can be stressful
  • Unplanned problems – any complications mean your birth will have to take place out of the birthing pool. These can include baby’s heart rate changing, mother bleeding, mother’s blood pressure rising or mother needing more pain relief than can be given in the pool. Even getting tired can be a reason for you to be asked to leave the pool, as it could put your baby at risk.

As we’ve said, there’s no one solution that works for everyone, but our maternity nurse team points out that the best way to have a great birth experience is to be flexible, open-minded and to talk to a lot of people about their experiences … it all helps you to feel confident and confident mums tend to have better births.


Water birth photograph courtesy of KellyPhD at English Wikipedia

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