Tag Archives: birth pool

Labouring and giving birth in water: tips from the 2013 home birth conference

Giving birth and labouring in water, Homebirth Assocation Conference 2013, Mind the Baby Blog, www.mindthebaby.ie
‘All you need is love, Love is all you need’ by Amanda Greavette http://amandagreavette.blogspot.ca

Waterbirth in Ireland was the theme of this year’s Home Birth Association annual conference on Sunday. If you were following me on Twitter, your timeline would have been bombarded with a blow by blow account of the day. Between myself and my fellow Irish Parenting Blogger David who was representing Birthingmamas on the day, I think there probably wasn’t one inch of the conference we didn’t cover!

The biggest take away for me was that water birth – whether you’re talking about just labouring in water or both labouring and delivering your baby in water – is most definitely not the preserve of women planning a home birth. Having access to birth pools in both hospital and home births is a great option for labouring mothers and the over riding recommendation seems to be “get thee to some warm water!”.

We heard great speeches from renowned UK midwifery lecturer Ethel Burns and Philomena Canning, Dublin-based self employed community midwife, who between them have over 70 years of midwifery and water birth experience. Ethel took us through her fascinating 2012 research on outcomes for women using a birth pool and Philomena spoke about her experience and the benefits of water birth.

Here’s some facts you may not have been aware of:

  • All midwifery units in the UK have a birth pool. We have very few in Ireland
  • Use of a birth pool during the first stage of labour decreases the need for analgesia (pain meds), results in less augmentation of labour, more spontaneous delivery, less infection, reduced pain perception and increased maternal satisfaction. That’s an awful lot of good things.
  • Evidence also shows that using a birth pool results in more intact perinae, no increase in extensive perineal trauma, and no increase for minor or major primary post partum haemorrhage
  • It is not necessary to wait until you are x many centimetres dilated to get into a birth pool. You can get in when you want to get it in.
  • If you are interested in or planning a natural birth, Ethel’s research proves that both labouring in water, or labouring and delivering in water, increase your chance of having a normal birth. Ethel also pointed out that data shows that if you are a healthy first time mother with no complications, you are in a very high risk group for an emergency C-section. Getting yourself into water for your labour will reduce your chances of this happening.

Both Ethel and Philomena gave great tips on the practicalities of using a birth pool:

  • Ethel recommended that the temperature of your birth pool should be slightly cooler than your normal bath temperature but said that you shouldn’t get hung up on temperature. Cooler is better and be comfortable. Philomena agreed that your own comfort was key and suggested a temperature between 37 and 38 degrees.
  • Philomena stressed that the most important thing about using a birth pool is to make sure that your partner does a trial run of filling the pool beforehand. You need to know how much water you’ll need, how long it takes, that the hose, taps, nozzles etc all work together.
  • From a timing perspective, Philomena recommended that if you’re having a home birth, don’t wait for your midwife to arrive before preparing the pool. Have it filled and ready to go before you think it’s time to call her – otherwise you mightn’t make it that far!

Philomena made three really important points about water birth and natural birth. She said that mothers will always benefit by going with nature as much as you can and that the great thing about a water birth is that it keeps your caregivers away from you and “hands off”. She also called water birth the epidural of home birth. Having laboured in a birthing pool myself I can attest to that last one and also add “but much more pleasant”. 🙂

You can access Ethel’s research at this link here if you’d like to read more. As was mentioned a number of times at the conference, birth pools are so widely available now and quite affordable, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t decide to have your own birth pool at home to labour in before going into the hospital if that’s what you wanted to do. Given the relatively few birth pools available in Irish maternity units it’s certainly something to consider.

There were a number of other topics discussed at this year’s home birth conference including policy developments in home birth in Ireland in the last 12 months and women’s rights in childbirth to choose both where and how they deliver their babies. I’ve covered those same issues here myself in the last couple of months so you might be interested in reading my earlier post, Giving Birth Is a Feminist Issue and my guest blog on Feminist Ire.

You might also like to read my Shopping List for a Home birth and for nostalgia’s sake, I started this blog this time last year the weekend of the 2012 home birth conference when Ina May Gaskin was in town so you might like to check out A Lot of Midwifery is about Loosening the Butt!

Happy water labouring!

A shopping list for a homebirth

Of the 70,000 odd births in Ireland every year, only a couple of hundred are homebirths.  The Home Birth Association of Ireland say that for each woman who has a planned homebirth there are approximately another ten who would like to have one but can’t because of the lack of service provision around the country.

A shopping list for a homebirth www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog
photo credit: eyeliam via photo pin cc

When I began planning my homebirth about half way through my pregnancy, I found it difficult to find information on what I might need, once the hospital had covered off the big, obvious things like a birth pool and towels.  So I thought I might share with you here what I bought in the end and what was useful or not.  It might be helpful to some readers or maybe you might know someone thinking about a homebirth you could pass it on to. Other homebirthers, please chime in if there’s something you’d recommend that worked well for you.

1. Birth pool

One of my midwives recommended getting a birth pool for pain management.  The midwives supply gas and air but I found the pool invaluable and completely forgot about the entonox in the end.  I got my pool, the very lovely La Bassine, from Mary at www.birthingmamas.ie. For the love of your partner’s sanity, I would definitely test the bejaysus out of the pool before D-Day.  For example, make sure you know how long it takes to heat enough water in your boiler to fill the pool.  Make sure your hose is long enough to go from your sink to where you plan on having the pool.  Make sure you have the right hose connections to fit on the end of your tap so that you can connect the hose to the water source.  This took two trips to the hardware shop for us before we got it right!  We also purchased an eco hose to fill the pool with. I only had to read a couple of things about the number of chemicals in a regular garden hose to turn me right off that.  Incidentally, we considered the purchase of a pool as a disposable cost.  Most people reuse their pool or pass it on and  you can buy pool liners for this purpose. Myself and my husband know ourselves too well however and even before we had any idea what labour and a birth at home would like, we were pretty confident nobody would be willing or able to properly clean, sanitise and pack away the pool once the baby arrived. Considering our homebirth was being provided as a public service and at no cost to  us, we were happy to pay the one off cost of the pool which with all the accessories set us back about a hundred and fifty euro.

2. Tarpaulin to cover the floor in case the pool leaks

We bought a massive blue tarpaulin sheet that nearly covered our whole kitchen floor which cost about twenty euro. It turned out to be really handy because we had the reassurance of protecting the floor but we (well, my husband) was able to just roll it up and get rid of all of the mess in one swoop so there was no cleaning or scrubbing.

3. Bubble wrap

One of the midwives recommended that we have some bubble wrap to cover the top of the birth pool to keep the heat in when I wasn’t in it.  In the end, we never used it because my labour was much quicker than expected but I can see how it would be useful.

4. Cheap dark towels

We bought bales of towels from Argos, about a tenner each, to use during the birth.  Having shopped around, Argos were by far and away the cheapest for towels at the time although I’m sure depending on what promotions are going on, other outlets would have similarly priced ones.  Surprisingly, IKEA towels turned out to be quite expensive.  Again, we were thinking of the disposal aspect hence the attention to price.  The towels were multifunctional in the end.  The midwife used some of them to set up a comfy delivery area so that I have nice softness under my knees.  She also used them to wrap the baby in when he was delivered and then I used them for my shower, for putting on the couch just in case there was heavy bleeding and on my mattress for the same reason.  Obviously, the dark colour was just to mask any blood.

5. Plastic basin

Ah yes, the infamous basin from There was poo.  This one euro lifesaver from Tesco was invaluable for my projectile vomiting once active labour kicked off.  Again, straight into the bin it went.

6. Plastic cups and straws

We bought a couple of big plastic cups – the hard, coloured ones rather than the flimsy disposal ones – so that we could use and abuse them without being concerned about breaking glass.  They were great because T just kept one topped up with ice cold water which he kept beside him on the floor and he just lifted it to my mouth with a straw in it between contractions.  Bliss! Actually we still have these.  Baby S loves to try and stick his whole face in them.  Another thing that was handy with these were ice bags so that we could drop cubes into the water to keep it cool.  The midwife suggested at one point that I might want to suck on the cubes themselves but I tried it once and hated it!  You just don’t know.

7. Tens machine

I found this really great at the very beginning, especially on my lower back.  Then I got to a point where I totally forgot about it until it started annoying me.  We rented one.  I’d highly recommend it.

8. Plastic jug

We bought a big 2 litre plastic jug which was a great way for my husband or the midwife to be able to pour warm water over my back when I was having contractions in the pool.

9. Cushions and a blanket

A trip to IKEA got us a whole bunch of cheap cushions and one lovely soft woolly blanket.  We used the cushions during labour and the delivery to provide a soft surface for my hands and knees. I have such fond memories of the cosy blanket. We wrapped it around ourselves and the baby over the first few days when we were in the living room settling in to feeds and naps.

10. Fish net/sieve thing

We bought a yoke to have to fish any bodily anything out of the pool.  It was useless.  There has to be a purpose built one out there.  If you find one, let me know!

11. Birthing ball

I used my birthing ball all the way through my pregnancy.  I’d bounce away on it every evening when taking in a little TV.  I didn’t use it during my labour at all but it was fantastic for the delivery.  I delivered on my knees, with my upper arms leaning on the birthing ball.

12. Heat packs

I’ve raved about these before but I’ll say it again, wheatgerm heat packs are the business. Once the midwife had settled myself and the baby on the couch, the next thing she did was heat up the lovely heat packs and pop them on my shoulders.  They were aching after the birth and some nice fleecy heat was exactly what they needed.

13. Face cloth

The face cloths actually came within the towel bales I mentioned above but they’re worth singling out because they were lovely to have pressed on my forehead and then to wipe my face after they had been dipped in cold water.

14. Roll of plastic bags

To throw everything in to!

15.  There were a number of other items that we got in to the house especially for the birth that we just never got around to using.  I think though if my labour had been longer we would have found them useful:

– Massage oil

– Fruit juice in small cartons with straws

– Honey

– Granola

– Yoghurts

So there you have it! Anyone have anything else they’d like to add to the list?

My birth story

I love a good birth story! I’ve read hundreds online, in books and love to hear other mothers tell theirs and sometimes shed a tear at the loveliness of it all. So in the spirit of reciprocation, here’s mine.  Hope you enjoy it…

When I went to see my GP to confirm my pregnancy at 5 weeks, she went through all my maternity options with me and fair play to her even mentioned I could have a homebirth if I wanted.  She wouldn’t recommend it, but it was available if I fancied it.  Oh God no, I said, not for me. I was actually already booked into the Domino Scheme in the National Maternity Hospital.  Once I got the thumbs up from the pregnancy test, I was on the phone.  You have to move quick in this town for community midwife-led care!

But half way through my pregnancy I was in deep with my Gentlebirth programme, my prenatal yoga with Lou and had hungrily devoured Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  I wondered if I was going to labour at home for as long as possible to avoid any unnecessary interventions and then get discharged from the hospital as quick as possible as was the Domino ethos, why didn’t I just cut out the middle part of the delivery in the hospital and stay at home?  I discussed it with my husband, he took a few days to mull it over – because really, he needed to be fully on board – and then decided it was a great idea.  So we moved from the Domino Scheme to the Homebirth Programme.  It was the same community midwives, just all care was in our house now.

(I’m putting this bit in brackets as an aside but it fits in here in the chronology of things.  Once we made the decision to plan a homebirth, we told no one.  Firstly, I knew of a few women who had planned a homebirth and it didn’t work out for them for various reasons and I really felt for them. Secondly, it’s considered a pretty radical concept and I didn’t want my head to be infected by the negativity of others who mightn’t approve.  It was definitely the right decision for us.)

Fast forward a few months…I was eight days overdue and starting to get a little anxious as I was very conscious that once I reached the 14 days over mark, then my homebirth would be off the cards without negotiation as per hospital policy.  It was a really warm day and I was looking forward to going to what would hopefully be my last prenatal aqua-aerobics class that evening.  I spent the day pottering around the house and listened to the Gentlebirth gentle induction track for the first time (and then wondered afterwards why I hadn’t listened to it before!) and then listened to it once more before I headed out to the pool.

During the class I started to feel “different”. I couldn’t put my finger on the sensation but as I had nearly convinced myself that something was happening every night since my due date passed, I didn’t pay it too much attention.  I also didn’t mention anything to my husband when I went to bed that night but when I woke at 2am with what felt like period pain, I rolled over and told him that maybe he should turn on the water for the birth pool just in case.  I then promptly fell asleep and slept through my surges until 10am the next day!

photo credit: kudaker via photopin cc

That morning I had sensations of mild period pain – I’ve definitely definitely had worse period pain – from when I got up until around lunchtime.  I did some dishes and caught up on some emails.  Although the surges were comfortable they were coming consistently every 3-4 minutes and after a few hours, I decided to check in with the community midwives.  One of the team was with us within the hour and when she examined me she said that I was definitely in labour but maybe I should go for a walk or a swim, eat something and try and get some rest because we could be here for quite a while.  She also said I’d know when to call her back and that she was confident that we’d be having this baby at home!

Very excited but hungry, I ate some lunch and went to take a nap and listen to my gentlebirth tracks while my husband popped down to the shops to pick up a few groceries and some magazines (which I never got to read).  I wasn’t ten minutes into my nap when the surges suddenly increased in intensity and lying on my side listening to my iPod wasn’t doing anything for me anymore.  My husband arrived back just then and helped me back downstairs but by the time I got to end of the stairs, I couldn’t speak during my surges and needed to stop and lean heavily on him.  They were still coming 3-4 minutes apart.  It was time to get the midwife back and fill the pool!

We have an island in our kitchen and it proved to be invaluable as I walked around it and held on to it during each surge while my husband filled the pool.  I tried sitting backwards on a chair – a position we had practiced at our active birth class – but I jumped up immediately once a surge began. My body only wanted to be standing and upright all the time.  It was really comfortable to just stand, walk and sway during the surges.When the midwife arrived, she examined me and told me I was about 6 centimetres and helped me into the pool.  Oh the bliss! I spent the next couple of hours kneeling forward in the pool, with the midwife pouring warm water on my lower back during each surge and my husband pressing his forehead against mine as he breathed me through each one. Both our foreheads were very tender for the next few days.

It was at this stage that I felt the baby moving downwards.  I initially thought that I needed to poo and I remember thinking “well if I could just get this poo out of the way, then I could get on with the business of having this baby” because I thought I hadn’t been in labour long enough for it to be the baby causing this sensation. Each surge was exactly four long breathes with a huge inhale in at the start – like I was about to dive underwater – followed by really deep, concentrated breathes. At the same time, my voice was drawing a totally involuntary sound from deep down inside my body.  It was a little frightening the first time it happened but the midwife reassured me and encouraged me to just go with it. Once I did, it really helped to move the baby down and I got into a lovely rhythm that helped me concentrate and channel my energy.  It really didn’t feel like very long until the midwife told me she could see the top of the baby’s head and it was time to get out of the pool to push.

She had set up a lovely area beside the pool with blankets, cushions and my birthing ball.  I knelt down on the cushions and leaned into the ball with my elbows. The midwife told me that if I reached down I could feel the top of the baby’s head.  With one push, his head was out and the midwife promised me that with one more push he would be here.  That was all I needed to hear! One big inhale and a big push later, my beautiful baby boy arrived on our kitchen floor!  The midwife passed him straight up between my legs and into my arms.  I sat down on my heels and held him to my chest while my husband and I showered him with kisses. The midwife wrapped us with towels to keep the baby warm.  While we were just staring at each other, the placenta literally just fell out!  Because my labour progressed so quickly – it was just under four hours between the start of active labour and delivery – my second midwife arrived just as the baby did.  She took lots of beautiful photographs for us which we have to treasure.  After a few minutes the midwives helped me up, still holding the baby in my arms, and brought me into the living room where the two of us cosied up with my husband on the couch under a warm blanket.  They left our little family together to enjoy these special moments and baby S latched on straight away and began feeding.  It was really wonderful.

Then we got down to business again!  My husband took his shirt off and held the baby against his skin under the blanket, while the midwives examined me – no tear or stitches just a tiny graze – and brought me up to my shower for a lovely wash and a change into a new night dress.  Then we weighed S.  He was 8lbs on the button.  One of the midwives stayed with us for a couple of hours and suddenly we were on our own – just the three of us. My husband made us some well deserved dinner, we talked to our families and texted our friends to tell them the great news and we all headed to bed.  It was really lovely to be in our own bed cuddled up together…

In the days after S was born even though I was exhausted, I was on a complete high.  I felt like superwoman and that I could do anything. In some ways, I still feel that high.  His birth was easily the most incredible, intense experience of my life and it changed me forever.

Related Links:

Music for the soul

There was poo

How long is 90 seconds?

Gentlebirth, the game changer

A shopping list for a homebirth