We all instinctively know how soothing and relaxing a warm bath can be. What you may not know is that being in warm water has an actual physical effect on your body, which can be of great help during labour. Learn more about the benefits of a water birth and prepare for the practicalities too.
Choosing a water birth
Everything you need to know about water births
The benefits of a water birth
The main advantage of being immersed in warm water is that it has a relaxing effect. This helps relieve pain and ease tension throughout your body, and can reduce the need for pain-relieving drugs1.
Another advantage is the support of the water – it gives you the freedom to experiment with different positions. Also, water birth will not prevent tearing or episiotomy but might make them less likely1.
Don’t forget to bring a cosy dressing gown in case you need to leave the pool to go to the toilet – you can get cold really quickly once you’re out of that warm water.
The practicalities of a water birth
For it to be effective, you will need to be immersed up to the level of your nipples, with your abdomen under the water, which needs to be kept at a constant body temperature2. You can get in and out of the water whenever you want3 – keep a warm dressing gown handy.
If you’re using a birthing pool in hospital or at home, a midwife will regularly check the baby’s heartbeat using a Pinnards stethoscope or Doppler machine4.
Although it can be soothing, some women find that the water doesn’t give as much pain relief as they were expecting and need extra medication to help them cope or simply is not as comfortable. So be prepared for a possible change of plans to avoid being too disappointed.
Epidurals and TENS stimulations are not possible to have in water births.
- If you’re planning a water birth, why not ask your midwife to see if your local NHS unit has pools?
- Make sure to pack some towels and dry clothes for when you get out of the water.
Learn more about Labour & Birth
- NCT. Water births and labouring in water: questions answered [Online]. 2019. Available at https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/your-pain-relief-options/water-births-and-labouring-water-questions-answered [Accessed July 2021]
- NCT. Planning for water birth [Online]. 2019. Available at https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/different-types-birth/water-birth/planning-for-water-birth-6-top-tips [Accessed July 2021]
- NCT. How to labour in water or have a water birth [Online]. 2019. Available at https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/different-types-birth/water-birth/how-labour-water-or-have-water-birth [Accessed July 2021]
- NHS. Monitoring your baby’s heartbeat during labour [Online]. 2019. Available at
Last reviewed: 28th July 2021
Reviewed by Oriana Hernandez Carrion