K.D. BraininFounder & Director

The story behind these extraordinary water birth pools

Blog: 16.06.2016

Active Birth Pools was born of an epiphany I (Keith Brainin) had in 1987 after meeting water birth pioneer Michel Odent who lived nearby and attended the birth of my son Theo.

It was clear to me that the use of water for labour and birth had great promise but there were no suitable water birth pools available.

Active Birth Pools supplies the world’s first bespoke water birth pool for Yehudi Gordon and his staff at the Garden Hospital, Hendon, North London.

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1988 – Midwife Jennifer Starisky supporting a women in labour in front of the world’s first water birth pool at the  Garden Hospital, Hendon, North London

I met with Yehudi, Janet Balaskas and the midwifery staff to find out what they felt was important.

I also followed Michel Odent’s sage advice of making the pool “Big enough but not too big – deep enough but not too deep”.

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John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford 1990

This led me to develop and produce the world’s first purpose designed portable water birth pool that was unveiled at the International Home Birth Conference in London in 1987.

Quick on the heels of this development I worked with renowned obstetrician and Active Birth pioneer Yehudi Gordon to design a bespoke water birth pool for the maternity unit at the Garden Hospital in North London.

By 1990 when Sheila Kitzinger and Ethel Burns led a campaign to have a Deluxe Birth Pool installed at the John Radcliffe Hospital the blue print for the future of Active Birth Pools development was clear. 

The story behind the design of these exceptional water birth pools

My 17 years with Janet Balaskas as Director of the Active Birth Centre gave me the experience and knowledge to establish and evolve the design ethos inherent in my water birth pools.

I learned about the importance of upright postures which inspired me to create birth pools that encourage and support mothers to labour actively, benefit from the buoyancy of the water and experience a physiological labour.

A focus on safety, design, and quality has driven the evolution of my water birth pools over the decades with a succession of innovations and breakthroughs resulting in my current range that is unquestionably the finest available.

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Inside the Meadow Birth Centre: Worcester Hospital

The future of water birth pools

In the summer of 2014 I had the good fortune to discover and forge a relationship with a bespoke bathtub manufacturer who produces high end baths, to order by hand in the exceptional proprietary material Ficore®.

This enabled me to take the evolution of my designs and principles to the next level and develop a range of pools that are a quantum leap forward in every respect and mark the birth of the next generation of water birth pools.

My new range of birth pools are far superior to any I have previously produced or that are currently available on the market. 

Superior materials optimise performance to provide exceptional long term value

All other water birth pools I’m aware of are made from either fibreglass or acrylic. 

While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these materials (I have used them in the past) they do not compare with Ficore®, the proprietary material that Active Birth Pools are manufactured from.

It’s 50% harder then acrylic or fibreglass, and has 6 times the insulation factor. 

It is exceptionally smooth, durable, comfortable, tactile and warm to the touch.

Aside from the obvious benefits such as negating infection control risks and allowing us to sculpt the shape of the pool to optimise the ergonomic dynamic, fabrication in Ficore® provides considerable structural and engineering advantages.

A water birth pool that is fabricated in Ficore® not only offers superior performance but has a much longer life cycle (25 years+) and therefore represents exceptional value.

Contemporary ergonomic design applied to state-of-the-art materials with bespoke manufacturing techniques has resulted in seamless one-piece water birth pools of stunning form, quality and performance.

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The application of ergonomic design principles

Simply put ergonomics is an applied science that takes into account the relationship between people and the products that they use to maximise productivity, increase safety and reduce discomfort.

I became aware of the mechanics of ergonomic design in 1994 when I met a health service ergonomist who inspired me to incorporate the principles of ergonomic design into the creation of the original Active Birth Pool.

This led to innovations such as the extra-wide rims, concave skirting panels, and the safety & labour support seats that define the design aesthetic of Active Birth Pools.

The water birth pools I produced from the mid-90’s onwards became the benchmark standard and have been installed in hundreds of hospitals throughout the United Kingdom and abroad.

The possibility of a natural birth is optimised

My experience as co-director of the Active Birth Centre with Janet Balaskas has informed and guided the design of my pools to optimise the mother’s chance of having a physiological labour and natural birth.

Active Birth Pools encourage mothers to move, explore and find the upright positions that are most beneficial and conducive to allow a natural physiological labour to unfold.

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On land women have to contend with the force of gravity that limits their ability to assume upright postures especially as labour progresses and it becomes too difficult to maintain these positions for lengths of time.

The buoyancy of water supports the mother allowing her to explore the full range of upright positions with ease and move with renewed energy in ways that were not possible on land.

My study of the ergonomic dynamic at play between the mother and the pool has enabled me to develop water birth pools that allow her to take maximum advantage of the benefits that immersion in water provides and increases the likelihood of her having a natural birth.

Remarkably comfortable for midwives to work with

One of the primary lessons I learned from the health service ergonomist concerned the physical dynamic of midwives as they interacted with mothers in the pool.

She showed me how a solid vertical side panel becomes an obstacle and keeps midwives away from the mother. 

To be get closer the midwife must splay her legs and bend over resulting in lower back and other associated aches and pains.

The rims of Active Birth Pools flow seamlessly over the bullnose shaped edge and down to the floor encompassing the form of the pool to provide plenty of room for midwives to sit with their legs parallel underneath.

Comfortably seated with her arms resting on the extra-wide rim the midwife is able to look after the mother without strain or risk of injury to her back.

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Setting safety standards

Active Birth Pools have been designed to safeguard mothers and midwives and are widely regarded as the benchmark for water birth pool safety standards.

I have always been guided by the fundamental need for my water birth pools to be 100% safe.  I realised that despite the obvious benefits of water for labour and birth, if there were unacceptable safety risks it would not be possible to continue.

As a result there has never been infection control, health & safety or manual handling issues relating to the  use of my water birth pools.

Client satisfaction guaranteed

Active Birth Pools tick all the boxes, surpassing all requirements to guarantee you peace of mind and provide great satisfaction to the end users.

  1. Reports indicate that mothers experience a greater likelihood of having a physiological labour and natural birth.
  2.  Hospitals save money and optimise resources from the reduced use of analgesia, medical intervention and shorter hospital stays.
  3. Midwives experience greater job satisfaction and are able to work in comfort safeguarded from risk of injury.
  4. Emergency evacuations can be easily effected in accordance with Health & Safety regulations.
  5. The contemporary design and striking appearance of our pools complement and enhance the look and feel of  the room .
  6. The ultra-smooth finish, soft curving contours and warmth of the material contribute psychologically to help the mother feel comfortable and at ease.
  7. Solid seamless one-piece construction and absence of over flow drains and integral plumbing reduce the risk of water borne infection to nil.

Meadow Birth Centre Venus Birth Pool

Venus Water Birth Pool – Meadow Birth Centre, Worcester Hospital

Best value for money

Purchasers of medical equipment the world over are charged with the responsibility of attaining best value for money. Value for money is defined as the optimum combination of whole life costs and quality.

Consideration of whole life cycle costs that take into account end users, healthcare professionals and finance is a crucially important factor when you are choosing a water birth pool.

Active Birth Pools are backed by a industry leading 20 year guarantee and have an expected life span well in excess of 25 years which translates into exceptional lifecycle value.

Active Birth Pools are handmade to order in Ficore® and delivered worldwide direct from my factory in the United Kingdom.

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