We first became interested in the design and use of water birth pools in 1986. Dr Michel Odent, the renowned water birth pioneer, had moved to our locality and was a regular speaker at the Active Birth Centre.
Following the pioneering of the first water births in Russia in the 1960’s, Michel Odent introduced the use of water during labour at the state hospital in Pithiviers, France in the late 1970’s.
After delivering 100 babies in water he published an article in the Lancet and was visited by journalists and birth professionals from all over the world. This inspired us to begin work on designing the first portable water birth pool to enable women in the UK to use a birth pool in the environment of their choice.
The pool was ready for it’s trial run in mid -1987. One of the women attending Janet Balaskas classes at the Active Birth Centre was very keen to give it a try. The outcome exceeded our expectations.
It was a model home birth with Michel Odent as attendant. The pool performed brilliantly – it was easily assembled and filled – and helped the mother to get through her first labour without the need for medical pain relief.
From there we went onto refine the design of the pool and to research what essential equipment needed to be supplied with the pool. As word got out, demand for the pool increased. We needed more pools to accommodate the women who wanted to use a pool and before we knew it – the Active Birth Centre’s pool hire service was born.
During this time, Janet became involved with midwives, researchers and birth professionals in further exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of how the principles of Active Birth could be applied to water birth.
She began working with pregnant women in swimming and birth pools. From this experience she developed a system of aquatic exercise and learned just how beneficial a deep pool of warm water is to a women in labour.
She discovered how water allowed women to use the positions natural to labour and birth in a completely new way. This led to the publication of her book “Water Birth” in 1990 (a new and fully revised edition was published in August 2004) and the “Water and Birth” video in 1992.
Janet used her experience and knowledge to create two inspiring and informative workshops. The ‘Water Birth Workshop’ for pregnant women and their partners, and Study Days for Midwives which cover the professional issues and practicalities of assisting women at a water birth.
She was also a key participant and driving force behind the International Water Birth Conference held at Wembley Conference Centre in 1995 and has lectured widely internationally.
In 1988 the obstetrician, Yehudi Gordon, asked us to design and supply a pool for the Birth Unit at the Hospital of St. John and St. Elizabeth. We worked with him and the midwives to develop the design for the first installed birthing pool available in this country — the original Deluxe Water Birth Pool (now updated and improved).
After the first few births it was clear that the pool worked very well both for the birthing mother and her attendants and the design was a complete success.
As other hospitals asked us to supply them with birth pools it became apparent that there was a need for a range of different size and shaped pools to suit their varying requirements.
Over the next few years we produced 4 new and different birth pool designs for installation in hospitals, the Elliptical, Corner , Space saver and the ergonomically designed New Active Birth Pool.
Over the years we have improved and innovated the design of the portable pools and the quality of our hire service.
We went on to design 3 new portable pools – the Oval, Circular and Hexagonal which thoroughly meet the needs of the labouring woman and her attendants and offer affordable and space saving options.
We have been delighted to hear thousands of reports of how our pools have helped women in labour, assisted babies to be born more easily and have also been appreciated by the midwives who have attended them. We continue to improve and update the range in accordance with the experience and feedback we receive.