Water births

Last modified on Wednesday 13 January 2021

Giving birth in water, or using water as pain relief, has become very popular and you can usually do this whether you are giving birth at home or in a hospital or birth centre.

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What are the benefits of a water birth?

If you are thinking about this option we show you the benefits and some of the disadvantages of both home and hospital water births.

Though medical research into water births is still inconclusive, many mums have experienced a range of benefits, including:

  • Water can provide a natural buoyancy, which makes the mother feel lighter
  • It can help lower blood pressure
  • Water relaxes the mother, allowing her to concentrate on the birth
  • Water may reduce vaginal tearing, thus helping the mother avoid an episiotomy or stitches
  • A water birth may shorten the first stage of labor and reduce the need for anesthesia
When dd was born I reached down and picked her up out of the water myself. I was the first person to touch my daughter, the first to see that she was a girl. The midwife told me to blow on her face, I did, and she took her first breath.

What are the disadvantages to water births?

Though water births are available in many hospitals, there still may not be a midwife who has experience in water births on duty. In addition to this:


  • They may not be suitable for all. Some mums can get in and realise they are uncomfortable, so be prepared to change your mind
  • They can get a little messy, so if you or your birthing partner is a little squeamish then it might not be the best approach
  • Sometimes a water birth can slow down labour
  • You can't use the pool if you have pethidine or an epidural - though you are free to use these if you decide against continuing with the pool
I was desperate for a water birth but it just wasn't for me. I got in the bath in early stages before I was really ready for the birth pool and hated it, at no point during the actual labour did I actually want to get in the pool and even with my second baby I felt the same

Is a water birth right for me?

A difficult question and one which needs to be answered by you - though of course ask your partner and even friends or family who may have had a water birth. Don't forget to speak to your Midwife about it too. Some mums find that they are happy to labour in water but they feel more comfortable about delivering on dry land so to speak! You can use the bath just to help you manage your labour pains and then move onto a bed or the floor if you feel that want to do that.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that a water birth may not be possible for every mum-to-be. Water births are generally offered to pregnant women if:

  • You don't have any pregnancy related complications
  • Your pregnancy is full term or after 37 weeks
  • There is no infection or signs of excessive bleeding

We also recommend you speak with your Doctor if you are expecting more than one baby or the baby is in the breach position as it may not be safe to have a water birth.

When i got into the pool my contractions died off completely as the water totally chilled both me and baby. I was in bliss and felt like falling asleep in the pool as it was sooo peaceful and relaxing ...
Terri Anne

What are the risks of water births?

Though there has not been an in depth review of risks in water births, the general consesus is that there is little risk to you or your baby.

However, your baby may inhale whilst still in the birthing bath, possibly causing them to breathe in some water. However this is a rare occasion and your midwife will be on hand to help.

Additionally there may be an increase in infection if the pool is not kept clean, but there are strict health requirements for all hospitalls and the risk is no greater than other birthing methods.

How should I prepare for a water birth?

Make sure you discuss your birthing plan with your Doctor or Midwife to make sure a water birth is a safe option for you. As only 63% of UK hospitals have water birth pools check with your hospital to ensure you can have a water birth there.

If you decide you want to have a water birth at home then pools can be rented, but make sure your midwife has experience in water births.

Finally make sure you have an emergency plan in the unlikely event you are not able to have a water birth. There are alternative birthing plans available, so go over to our coffeehouse pregnancy forum to find out the experiences of other mums.

A water birth can be an amazing experience. Watch this video to see what is involved in a home water birth.

Other birth options

Not sure a water birth is for you? Read about your other options, including home births, local hospitals, caesearean sections and pain relief in our Labour and Birth section.

Real life birth stories

Reading about the experiences of other mums can really help when trying to decide where and how to give birth. Read birth stories and ask questions in our birth stories forum.