Water Birth

Tess and Sam
© Uwe Kitzinger

''An important element in using immersion in water for labour and possibly for the birth of the baby is that it provides an effective way of helping the woman cope with the pain of labour, and gives back control of birth to the woman herself. Yet there is more to it even than that. It seems to create an entirely different environment and atmosphere for a woman giving birth, as it does also for the midwife caring for her. Birth takes place in a quiet room, with personal care from a midwife who is concerned to support the normal physiological process of birth.

Knee-jerk reactions to waterbirth make the existence of double standards quite patent. Waterbirth is seen as unnatural and hazardous, and urgent investigation is demanded into the dangers that women create for their babies when they do not submit to obstetric guidance and agree to be delivered in the conventional way. Yet many of the interventions that have been introduced by obstetricians have not been subjected to randomised controlled trials, and remain inadequately researched. Epidural anaesthesia, despite reported hazards, and possible long term morbidity for the mother continues unchallenged. This is understandable, because epidurals fit neatly into the existing medical paradigm. It is difficult to ignore the possibility that the attempt to suppress the use of water for labour and birth is also an attempt to dominate the birth environment, and to prevent a woman and her midwife being in control of the birth process. The use of water in childbirth requires systematic evaluation, but so does the use of epidural anaesthesia and other procedures in routine use, such as the interventions necessary for the active management of labour.''

A midwifery perspective on the use of water in labour and birth
by Lesley Page and Sheila Kitzinger
Maternal and Child Health Jan 1995

The UKCC has decided that assistance at waterbirth is part of the duties of a midwife and is not “special treatment” (Position Statement on Waterbirths, 1994). So each midwife needs to be confident that she has the skills to help women give birth in water.

We often hear of midwives who are uncertain about waterbirth because they feel they are not up-to-date with the latest research and of hospitals where, when a certain midwife is not on duty, women are dissuaded from waterbirth.

The International Waterbirth Movement is now offering workshops, addressing theory and practical skills, by one of England's most experienced waterbirth midwives, Ethel Burns. She has assisted at more than 500 waterbirths and has done research into waterbirth and aromatherapy. She explores issues of safety, pain relief, mothers' satisfaction and good midwifery practice.

For more information on these workshops, please send your address and contact details to eburns@brookes.ac.uk

Birth Pool Organizations
Click on the logo & visit their web

Made in WaterA web site dedicated to those who believe that pregnancy and childbirth are not a medical procedure but a gentle natural process.
Products include well thought out ethically manufactured inflatable birth pools to purchase.


BirthworksEighteen years experience hiring out birth pools in the UK.  Heated pool system. Built from sustainable timber. Flexible hire periods.
Active Birth CentreThe Active Birth Centre hire out (and sell) a variety of differently designed birth pools to individuals and hospitals in London and nationwide.
They also sell videos & books about water birth and run water birth workshops.
BabyMoon BirthpoolsBabymoon supply portable water birth pools to hire for home birth or hospital birth, throughout the UK.
Find answers to your water birth questions and discover benefits that water could bring to your labour.
They are based in the New Forest so if you live in Hampshire, Dorset or Wiltshire, they are your local water birth pool supplier.
Birth pool in a boxInflatable pools with accessories.
Blue Lagoon Birth PoolsHire out birth pools and run water birth workshops.
Bubba TubsBubba Tubs hire out birth pools nationwide at a weekly rate (and they sell baptismal pools)
Eau BabyEauBaby hire pools out for a full 5 weeks. Midwifery guidelines state that the five weeks from 3 weeks before to 2 weeks after your due date are the safest periods for a home birth.
Tel: 0121 449 9803 Email: enquiries@eaubaby.net
Based in Birmingham - they also hire out pools nationwide.
Gentle Water Birthing Pools hire out birth pools.
This web site has clear answers to many water birth questions.
The Good Birth CompanyThe Good Birth Company specialises in affordable birth pool hire and breast pump sales. Their pools are among the lowest priced birth pools in England.
Splashdown Water Birth Services hire out birth pools & run water birth workshops


Books and Articles

Robyn M. Maude and Maralyn J. Foureur. (2007). It’s beyond water: Stories of women’s experience of using water for labour and birth. Women and Birth,  20, 17—24Gentle Water Birthing Pools
Maude, R. and Caplice, S. (2006). Using water for labour and birth. In: Pairman, S., Pincombe, J., Thorogood, C. and Tracy, S. Midwifery Preparation for Practice. Sydney: Elsevier. 2nd ed. due 2010
Midirs Can search hundreds of journals to provide a list of references on any midwifery subject
L20 - Labour & Delivery: The use of water
Waterbirths: A Comparative Study
A Prospective Study on More than 2,000 Waterbirths

Verena Geissbühler, Jakob Eberhard
Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy Vol 15:5:2000
Waterbirth an attitude to care
Dianne Garland
Books for Midwives 2nd Edition 2000
Perinatal mortality in water British Medical Journal August 1999
Waterbirth British Journal of Midwives, supplement Vol 6, 4
April 1998
Waterbirth Updating the evidence
Dianne Garland & Keith Jones
British Journal of Midwifery Vol 5, 6
June 1997
Waterbirth Unplugged
Proceedings of the
First International Water Birth Conference (1995)
(ed) Beverley Lawrence Beech
Books for Midwives Press 1996
Labour and birth in water in England & Wales:
Survey report by Fiona Alderdice,Mary Renfrew, Sally Marchant et. al.
British Journal of Midwifery Vol 3, 7
July 1995
Comparison & Perspective
Journal of the Royal College of Midwives
Vol 108, 1,284
January 1995
Pooling Information
Ethel Burns & Kay Greenish
Nursing Times Vol 89
24 Feb 1994
A pilot study for a randomised controlled trial of waterbirth versus land birth
Woodward J, Kelly S
British Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 111:537-545

Immersion in water in pregnancy, labour and birth
Cluett ER, Nikodem VC, McCandlish RE, Burns EE.

The Cochrane Collaboration John Wiley & Sons. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 1.

Water: what are we afraid of?
Ethel Burns

The Practising Midwife

7(10): 17-19
November 2004

The Water Birth Book
Janet Balaskas

Thorsons 2004

Randomised controlled trial of labouring in water compared with standard of augmentation for management of dystocia in first stage of labour
Cluett ER, Pickering R, Getliffe K, Saunders N

British Medical Journal BMJ 2004; 328:314 (7 February), doi:10.1136/bmj.37963.606412.EE (published 26 January 2004)

Warm tub during labor: maternal and neonatal effects
Ohlsson G, Bucchave P, Leandersson U, Nordstrom L, Rydhstrom H, Sjolin I

Acta Obstetrica et Gynecolica Scandanavica


The use of water in labour and birth Royal College of Midwives

Position Paper 1a RCM, London

A retrospective comparison of water births and conventional vaginal deliveries
Otigbah CM, Mandish K, Dhanjal, Harmsworth G, Chard T

European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology

91: 15-20

Perinatal mortality and morbidity among babies delivered in water: surveillance study and postal survey.
Gilbert R.E, Tookey P.A

British Medical Journal

319, 21st August: 483-487

Staying in control: women’s experiences of labour in water
Hall SM & Holloway IM


14 (1): 30-36


WaterbirthDVD infoWaterbirthDVD coverA Guide to Water-Birth (DVD)

The cost is £25 including post packing & VAT.
Available only from:
Oxford Medical Illustration.
John Radcliffe Hospital

Email: medical.illustration@orh.nhs.uk|
OMI Audiovisual Tel +44 1865 220903 
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Birth in Water at John Flynn Hospital
A portrayal of five individual water births, filmed at the John Flynn Hospital, Queensland, Birth in Water takes you on an extraordinary journey documenting the use of water immersion during labour and childbirth, enabling a safe, gentle, joyous and empowering experience. Commentary by parents, midwives and Dr Davidson.
by Dr Andrew DavidsonBirth in Water