How to prepare for a water birth

Read for information on preparing for water birth, hiring, setting up and using a birthing pool and the equipment and supplies you may need.

This article covers setting up the pool, and other things you might need to get the most out of using a birth pool in labour.

Water birth: setting up before using a birthing pool

If you hire a birthing pool for use at a home birth, it is useful to try assembling it and filling it in late pregnancy, or at least have one dummy run. If you have a partner or someone who can help, you can make sure they know how to prepare the pool for when you need it. Make sure the birthing pool isn't left full of water where other young children can reach it.

Some pool hire companies recommend using a new sterile pool liner (cost approx £30) each time you use the pool. Other companies recommend sterilising the liner yourself. Check with your supplier for detailed instructions.

Pools generally take about 30-60 minutes to fill but larger birthing pools can take longer.

Water must not remain in the pool longer than 24 hours, unless a filtration cleaning system is fitted. In June 2014, Public Health England (PHE) also temporarily advised against the home use of birthing pools with built-in heaters and recirculation pumps, potentially filled up to two weeks in advance of the birth, after a case of Legionnaires’ disease identified in a baby born in this specific type of pool. 

It has been suggested that everyone using the pool should shower before entering the water.

Things you may need for labour and giving birth in water

The following may be useful for labouring in water, whether at home or in a hospital or birth centre:

  • water to drink (straws, sipper bottles or ice lollies may help)
  • if you are unsure of what to wear for a water birth, a t-shirt or crop top may be preferable
  • a small plastic bucket or stool to sit on or use to climb in and out of the pool
  • an inflatable pillow or towel, as a head rest
  • a folded towel or mat for kneeling on in the pool
  • sieve or fish net for removing mucus or bowel motion (this is completely normal and midwives are used to it)
  • large, warmed towels for you and your baby
  • a thick bath robe.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, having your baby 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.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have produced a joint statement on immersion in water in labour and birth