The keyword that defines our approach to water birth pool design is ‘Active’.
If we look up the definition of ‘Active Birth’ we get, “Childbirth during which the mother is encouraged to move around freely and assume any position which feels comfortable”.
Active Birth Pools provide mothers with the space and depth to move freely in the postures natural to labour and birth.
As she moves, she intuitively discovers features that provide support and make her more comfortable.
Other birth pools have elaborately moulded interiors that can be described as an “obstetric chair in a bath”.
These birth pools typically have very little floor space or room to move.
As Sheila Kitzinger wrote in her article ‘The clock, the bed, the chair’ published in 2003:
“Even a recent innovation, the birth pool, does not always permit free movement. In theory, a pool allows a woman, supported by water, to move unencumbered.
Or so it might be thought.
Though published research often refers to mobility as an advantage of being in a pool, some pools are elaborate constructions with seats, handgrips and foot-rests, and movement in them is restricted.”
The pool dictates the position the mother should be in by placing her in a semi-recumbent posture with hand holds and foot rests to fix the arms and legs.
Mothers are positioned in the classic lying back with legs wide-open position but happen to be immersed in water.
The seats in these water birth pools are typically tilted backwards. The mother is immobilised in a position with her pelvis tilted upwards resulting in her pelvic outlet being up to 30% smaller.
This puts pressure on the sacrum which flexes upward, into a curved position that restricts the diameter of the pelvic outlet inhibiting the baby’s descent.
The birth canal is placed in an “uphill” orientation, forcing the mother to push upward against gravity to give birth to her baby.
These seats and moulded fittings greatly reduce the space the mother has to move in and restricts her ability to use the positions most beneficial.
The benefits of labouring in water are largely negated. The possibility of a physiological labour and natural birth is greatly reduced.
By contrast the Active Birth Pool gives mothers plenty of room to move with an unobstructed floor area that measures 1200 x 800mm.
A water birth pool should have features and design elements that support the mother as she changes position rather than dictate the position she is in.
Mothers experience maximum advantage of the benefits that water offers to help increase the likelihood of a physiological labour and natural birth.
To see how mothers benefit from complete freedom of movement click on the link above.
This short home made video shows how the mother relates to the pool and the natural flow of movement that ensues. It has been hugely popular on YouTube.