Establishing the safety of waterbirth for mothers and babies: A cohort study with nested qualitative component


What is this research about?

This research project is to answer the question: "is it as safe to deliver a baby underwater in a birthing pool as it is to deliver out of water?" The research team is led by Professor Julia Sanders at the University of Cardiff.

Why is this research important?

Immersing yourself in water is an increasingly popular option for pain management during labour and research has shown this to be safe and effective. However we do not have clear evidence that staying in the pool to give birth to your baby and, sometimes, the placenta, is equally safe. The POOL study will collect data on approximately 600,000 births across the UK over a five-year period, drawing on routinely collected data held in electronic health records. This includes women giving birth at home, in midwifery units in and obstetric units. It will compare women who did use a pool in labour with those who didn’t, and women who got out of the pool to give birth with those who stayed in. At the end of the trial three papers will be published:

  • Describing pool usage and whether waterbirth, compared with leaving the pool prior to birth, is associated with worse outcomes for women and babies
  • Exploring the factors influencing pool use and the attitudes of obstetricians, midwives and neonatologists to waterbirth
  • Examining different rates of waterbirth and population-based factors between maternity units

How is NCT involved?

An NCT representative is a member of the Study Management Group which meets monthly to review progress. We comment on issues and documents from the parent perspective. Towards the end of the project we will be involved in interpreting and writing up the findings.

What is the current status of the research project?

POOL ran an online qualitative project in 2018, seeking opinions on pool use from women who had a baby in the last two years, obstetricians, midwives and neonatologists. Collection of birth data began in January 2019 and will continue until late in 2021.

For more information about this project, please contact The NCT representative is Rachel Plachcinski, email

Courses & workshops

In-person NCT Antenatal course

Find out more

NCT Antenatal refresher course

Find out more
NCT Membership
Support NCT Charity by becoming a member
Excited couple holding pregnancy test
Sign up to our weekly Pregnancy & Baby Guide