This article is designed to assist you in navigating your way through selecting, erecting, using and ultimately packing away your birth pool.
What You’ll Need
- Birth pool and liner
- Electric or hand air pump, the kind commonly used to inflate an air bed
- Waterproof sheet to protect the floor
- New hose and suitable tap adapter fittings
- Bath thermometer
- Clean bucket
- Debris scoop
- Double sided or masking tape to attach the waterproof sheet to the floor
- Padding to place under the pool
- Siphon or submersible pump
Selecting a Birth Pool
With a range of birth pools on the market, as well as inflatable children’s wading pools which could be used for the purpose, it can be difficult to decide which pool to buy. When making your decision, key considerations are likely to be cost, size and comfort.
Download our Birth Pool Comparison Chart (PDF 74kb)
Addressing size first, it is important to consider the space available to erect your birth pool, and select a pool which can be comfortably accommodated.
It can be tempting to purchase the cheapest pool available but in doing so you may sacrifice comfort features which can make a difference. These included:
- An inflatable pool floor which provides cushioning for feet, knees and bottoms
- Handles which can provide security during contractions and when climbing in and out of the pool
- A cover to retain heat while the pool is not in use, reducing the need for top-ups
- Height of the pool sides enabling the water to be deep enough for you to be completely immersed
Selecting Where to Place Your Pool
A birth pool can be placed on either a concrete or hardwood floor provided the floor can bear the weight. A filled birth pool weighs between 330 kg and 720 kg on average. Translated, if the floor in the room you are considering couldn’t carry 10 to 12 people standing together, you should select a different location.
If erecting your pool on a hardwood floor, selecting a corner will provide crossbeams for extra support. Ensure there is still enough space to comfortably walk all the way around your pool. Placing it completely in a corner could make it difficult for your midwife or birth partner to reach you effectively.
In addition when considering where to place your pool, you will need to consider:
- Proximity to a water source with which to fill the pool
- Availability of air flow for a summer birth and warmth for a winter birth
- Space around the pool and comfortable seating for birth partners and attendants
- The ambiance of the space, promoting calm and comfort
Preparing the Space
Once you’ve picked a location, thoroughly clean the area and in particular remove sharp objectives, electrical items and trip hazards.
Laying a rug, a piece of carpet or a thick blanket or quilt under your pool can help to protect it if the floor is rough or uneven. It can also prevent heat loss into the floor and provide extra padding, especially if your pool does not have an inflatable floor.
Inflating Your Pool
It’s important to refer to the instructions that came with your pool to ensure you inflate it correctly. Generally speaking though:
- Ensure the valves are easily accessible for inflating and deflating
- Unfold the sides gently
- Using your electric or hand air pump, inflate the lower chamber, then floor (if applicable)
- Only partially inflate the upper chamber at this stage to make the liner easier to fit
- Inflate chambers until they are firm to the touch – do not overinflate
- Check that all the valves are tightly closed
- Check your pool for air leaks – a spray bottle full of soapy water sprayed on any suspect areas will produce bubbles if there is a leak
To prevent any nasty surprises on your big day, conduct a trial inflation of your pool and preferably leave it erected for 24 hours. You don’t want to discover, while you’re in labour, that your pool has a puncture or you have underestimated the space required to erect it.
Fitting the Liner
Unfold the liner. If your pool has handles, locate the handle slots in the liner. Then:
- Orientate the liner to the pool handles and valve
- Fit the liner over the side and top handles first
- Make sure the floor seam in the liner is arranged around the edge of the pool floor
- Complete inflation of the top chamber
Filling Your Pool
The easiest and quickest way to fill your birthing pool is to use a hose. Always use a new hose as an old house can contain bacteria. Consider using a drinking water hose as many garden hoses are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which uses lead as a stabilizer.
Utilise your tap adapter fittings to attach your hose to an indoor tap. If possible use a tap with a mixer (hot and cold through the one tap) and fill your pool with warm water. If you are using separate hot and cold taps:
- First add approximately 12 to 15 cm of cold water
- Then add hot water aiming your hose at the body of water, not the side of the pool
- Ensure the hot water you’re adding does not exceed the manufacturer’s recommendation – usually around 50 to 60 degrees Celsius
- Fill no higher than 10 cm from the top of the pool as the water level will rise when you get in
During birth the water must be normal body temperature, around 37 degrees Celsius, to ensure the water temperature will not be a shock to the baby as it is born.
Oh No! We’re out of hot water
If you don’t have an instant hot water heater you may find yourself out of hot water before your pool is filled. Don’t panic!
- Fill your pool to approximately two thirds with cold water, while boiling on the stove large pots of water
- Testing the temperature as you go, add hot and cold water to bring your water to the right level and temperature
- Ensure the boiling water does not touch the sides of the pool
Keeping Your Pool Warm
If your pool has a cover, ensure this is kept on while the pool is not in use. This will help to minimise the need for top ups.
To raise or lower the pool temperature, remove some water with a new, clean bucket and top up with either hot or cold water as required. If you’re topping up the birth pool from a kettle, make sure you add the water away from the sides of the pool and mother.
You can check the pool temperature using a bath thermometer keeping the temperature of birth pool water lower than 37 degrees Celsius.
After the Birth
To find out more about packing up a birth pool after the baby is born check out our article ‘How to Pack Up a Birth Pool‘.