Arranging to use a birthing pool

What’s the best way to arrange to use a birthing pool in labour? Read for more information on water birth and organising to use or hire a birth pool.

This article discusses how to find out about using a birth pool in a hospital, birth centre, or at home.

Arranging to use a birthing pool in hospital

Many hospitals now have birth pools, and each hospital will have its own guidelines on pool use. The staff should provide written information as well as discussion on using water in labour and birth. Some hospitals require women to get out of the pool to actually give birth.

Find out how often the birth pool is actually used in your local hospital – or at different hospitals if there is more than one within reach of where you live. If the pool is used often, then it’s a good sign that the midwives are experienced in assisting women having a water birth.

Usually hospital birth pools cannot be booked. They are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Discuss what will happen if another woman is using the pool when you go into labour.

It may be possible to arrange to take a hired pool into the hospital with you. Make sure you check with the hospital first and think about how you're going to transport the folded pool: will it fit in a car or taxi?

Birth centres

You may have access to birthing centres which are either freestanding or alongside hospital maternity wards. There may also be local private facilities in your area. 

Often these centres provide continuity of care, are midwife-run and have facilities such as dim lights, relaxing music, birthing balls and water birth pools. 

Contact your local NCT branch to find out what is available in your area and talk to other local parents to find out more about local facilities.

Arranging to use a birth pool at home

If you are planning to have your baby at home, ask for a midwife with water birth experience. 

If you'd like to use a birthing pool at home, think about the following considerations:

  • Is your room big enough? Birthing pools vary in size but are generally about 5 feet by 4 feet, although smaller ones are available.
  • Is there room for the midwife to sit beside the pool and enough floor space in case you decide to leave the pool at any time?
  • Is the floor strong enough to hold a large pool full of water? Talk with the pool company about the weight of their different pools when full and which one would be most suitable for your home.
  • Is there a convenient supply of water? How long will it take to fill the pool?
  • How will you empty the pool? Where is the nearest drain?
  • Do you have a partner or friend who can set up the birthing pool and keep the water warm for you?
  • Is your hot-water system efficient enough to heat all that water? Or would it be better to hire a pool with its own thermostatically controlled heating system?

If you have any difficulties arranging a home water birth you could contact NCT, the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) or an independent midwife.

Hiring a birthing pool

Birth pools come in various shapes and sizes. Some are inflatable, others more permanent structures. Some have built-in heaters; others have to be filled with water from your own hot-water system. Birthing pool suppliers have lots of information on their websites for you to read, and you can also ask for information to be sent by post, or given by telephone.

Many pool hire companies also hire out videos and run workshops or study days on water birth. Equipment supplied should include some or all of the following:

  • Birth pool, disposable pool liner, pool cover to keep the water warm if you get out for a while, two long hoses, one to fill the pool and one to empty it (never use the output hose to fill the pool), tap connectors, water pump for emptying the pool, water thermometer, sieve and bucket, instructions for use.
  • You will also need plenty of hot water, unless you hire a birthing pool with built-in heater. 

Some more expensive pools come with a water filter to keep the water cleaner. This means you can go longer without changing the water, but in all cases, make sure you follow the instructions supplied to keep the pool clean and safe.

It is your responsibility to check with the company that their pool is insured and meets the safety and hygiene requirements of the NHS.

How much will it cost?

Costs vary from £100 to £400 depending on the type of pool you choose and the length of hire period.

Pools are hired as ‘packages’ to suit individual needs. There is a minimum hire period, which differs from company to company, and different prices are charged for different types of pool. A pool with its own heating and filtering system obviously costs more than one without. Extra accessories are usually included as part of the package but the charge for delivery is added on separately. Pools can be delivered and collected by national carriers, so you do not have to hire from the company nearest you.

Some companies recommend hiring a pool for 4 weeks – 2 weeks either side of your due date, but you can also hire pools for shorter periods.

It’s worth asking about:

  • any hidden extras you may have to pay for
  • how much deposit is required
  • when you need to pay
  • the minimum hire period
  • any refund if you are unable to use the pool for any reason.

Company policies vary significantly on these issues. You should also enquire about what happens if you keep the pool for longer than intended. There may be special arrangements if you are on income support.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about pregnancy, labour and life with a new baby.