At any stage of labour getting in the birth pool will act as natural pain relief and you can enjoy the sensation of the warm water. Be guided by your instincts and communicate with your midwives, when the time comes. If you feel strongly that you want to get into the birth pool, you may well benefit from using it. However, don’t be in too much of a hurry to get into the birth pool. The water will probably work better for you if you wait until your cervix is at least 5 centimetres dilated.
Warm water soothes strong or frequent contractions. Moreover if your back is uncomfortable and you want to relieve a feeling of pressure, the birth pool can be a source of welcome relief.
Remember to drink plenty of water or fluids while you are in the birth pool because you will be expending heat energy. Your may find it easier to drink from a straw. However, you must aim to keep your bladder emptied during labour to leave as much space as possible in your pelvis for your baby.
Keep the temperature of the water at or below 37ºC at all times during the first stage of labour and a degree or half above during the second stage of labour. Indeed, if you become overheated it can cause distress to the baby and discomfort to you.
If your labour is progressing slowly in the birth pool, you might try moving into different positions or getting out and walking around for a while. Squatting, kneeling on all fours or going up and down stairs can help move the baby into a good position for birth.
You could think about trying different positions: Kneeling, leaning on the side of the pool; Squatting, holding the sides of the pool; Using floats under your arms for support; Floating on your back with your hands holding the sides and your head supported on a waterproof pillow; and floating on your tummy with your head turned sideways, resting on a pillow. If your birth partner gets into the pool, you could try sitting with your back against him or her with your arms round your partner’s neck.
If you are in the birth pool when the baby’s head is born, aim to keep your bottom and his head under water. In doing so, the breathing reflex will not start too soon. The next contraction will birth your baby’s body. They will not float as there is no buoyancy from air in the lungs yet. The feeling of air on the skin, and a change in temperature, triggers the breathing reflex. He is still getting oxygen via the umbilical cord, which is attached to the placenta inside you.
Usually your midwife will lift him gently to the surface of the birth pool, face first, and hand him to you. Or she may guide you to lift him slowly yourself, being careful not to pull on the umbilical cord. You can cuddle your baby to your breast straight away if you want to, keeping his head above the water, and body submerged to stay warm.