Planning a Waterbirth (at Home?)

The use of water for labour and birth

The Benefits:

  • Contractions will be less painful
  • No side effects on baby or mum
  • The warm water helps you to relax
  • Being relaxed helps your body to produce more endorphins (natural pain killers)
  • Being relaxed helps your body to produce more oxytocin (makes your contractions more efficient)
  • Less need for medical pain relief
    Less need for drugs that accelerate labour
  • Shorter labour
  • Added privacy
  • Water supports your weight and makes you feel more comfortable and it will be easier for you to move and change positions.
  • You are more likely to achieve a natural birth
    The birth is more gentle for your baby
  • Breastfeeding can be encouraged immediately
  • A more enjoyable experience of labour and birth

Things to be aware of:

  • Not suitable for everyone—under certain circumstances using water for labour / birth may not be recommended
  • Not available everywhere—your local birth unit or hospital may have limited or no pools
  • To hire or buy a birth pool for a homebirth can be expensive
    Your home / hot water system may not be suitable for a pool

You can combine the water with the following methods of relaxation and pain management

  • Entonox (aka Gas & Air)
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage
  • Mood lighting

Cannot be used in the pool

  • Tens machine
  • Epidural
  • Opioids

Positions you can use in the pool:

  • On your knees, leaning on the side of the pool.
  • Squatting, holding the sides / handles of the pool.
  • Using floats such as a swimming noodle under your arms for support.
  • Floating on your back holding on to the sides of the pool
  • Floating on your front with your head on a waterproof pillow or a swimming ring
  • Sitting resting your back against your birth partner for cuddles
  • On your side, resting your head on a waterproof pillow

Pictures provided by


These are the sources of information used in this handout

Birthplace in England Collaborative Group, Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies: the Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study, BMJ 2011;343:d7400 (2011)

Care Quality Commission, Women’s experiences of maternity care in England: Key findings from the 2013 NHS trust survey (2013)

Cluett ER, Burns E, Immersion in water in labour and birth, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000111. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000111.pub3. (2009)

National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. NICE Clinical Guideline 190,London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2014)



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