Essential Water Birth Shopping list

Many of our clients are interested in water birth and ask us to recommend products. Giving birth in the water can be an excellent pain management option for those birthing at home and a gentle transition to extrauterine life for your baby. The following list includes the necessities, as well as some of products that I have seen work best over the years.

Let's start from the bottom:

Protecting your floors

Whether you plan to place the tub on hardwood, laminate, or carpet, a solid tarp that is larger than the circumference of your pool is a great idea. You will likely be frequently be getting in and out of tub and drips will inevitably happen. If you don't have a very cushy, inflatable bottom (or even if you do), your knees may appreciate some extra padding under the tub. A comforter, sleeping bag, or egg crate foam under your tarp works great.

Will the floors on my second story be able to accommodate the weight of the filled pool? 

I have yet to see a birth pool fall through the floor. Waterbirth International reports the weight of a filled birth tub to be equivalent to 4 adults sitting at a table, or 840 pounds. If you are still concerned, consider a part of the floor with a load bearing wall beneath. Ultimately, you will want your birth tub to be on the same floor as a bathroom and, ideally, near to the bed or other location where you will spend your first few postpartum healing days.

For carpeted floors, consider a plastic drop cloth walkway from your tub to your bed and bathroom. Some drop cloth plastics create a slippery, dangerous situation. Home Depot and other stores with painting supplies offer Self-Adhesive Carpet Protection Film, a temporary, sticky backed carpet protecting drop cloth plastic. It works great, staying in place throughout the day, even with a lot of traffic.

The Tub 

You have many options at a range of prices, listed here beginning with the least expensive/most simple.

1.) "The Fishy Pool"  At under $30, this pool comes at the right price. This is a simple blow-up inflatable children's pool, without a heating mechanism, handles, cup holders, or other niceties. I have seen all sorts of pools in use, but the most frequent problem encountered is insufficient height. In order to achieve the buoyancy and weightlessness needed for the best pain management in labor, you will ideally have at least 21" of water (The water should cover your belly while you are in a kneeling/squatting position). Look for three rings and at least 24 inches high. (Hint: You'll know you've hit the jackpot if all of the top reviews are from home birthers!)

Intex Swim Center Ocean Reef Inflatable Pool, 75" X 70" X 24", for Ages 6+

2.) La Bassine Waterbirth Pool: For the taller person, someone intending to use the tub multiple times, or someone who wants a few birth-related amenities, this birth pool might be for you. The side walls of the La Bassine have vertical inflatable pockets which create a sturdier feel. The bottom of the pool inflates to a nice cushion, which you will appreciate after several hours of kneeling, and plastic handles are fixed on the inside walls.  La Bassine makes fitted liners for easier clean-up between users and covers to keep the water warm when you are not inside.

Regular Size (75" x 54" x 28"): $120.00,

MAXI (75" x 65" x 28"): $140.00,

3.) Birth Pool in A Box Eco: This popular option comes with multiple amenities. The BPIAB comes with 6 exterior handles, three adjustable height rings, an inflatable seat, and a built in cup holder. The "My Anchor" accessory birth pool strap is available for purchase. Some sites include liners, covers, and accessories in one water birth package, or they can be purchased a la carte. This sturdy pool will hold up for many uses. (Personal note: I like this pool and so do my clients, but I feel compelled to mention that I have never once seen anyone use the seat, the handles are used far less frequently than a support person's hands, and the cup holder is awkward and the drink gets stuck in it. I wouldn't use these factors alone in the choice of this pool over the less expensive options.) 

Regular (76" x 65" x 30"): $210.00, 

  Mini (65" x 57" x 28"): $195.00,

Air Pumps for inflating your tub range from manual hand pumps ($5) to quick-fill electric pumps ($25) and are easily found.

4.) The Aqua Doula: This self-heating tub is a unique option for someone who does not want to worry about keeping their water at the perfect temperature. The sidewalls are made of rigid and study foam covered plastic, which some users complain is less comfy to drape themselves over. Additionally, the height is only 24", just high enough to meet the minimum amount of water needed. At over $1,000.00 to purchase, most people interested in this tub choose to rent from someone local. Ask your midwife if she knows of anyone offering this service. Bonus: rental services typically offer liners, hoses, adapters, and pumps. Some offer set up and clean up as well.

Learn from our mistakes: Protect the integrity of your inflatable pool by keeping pets who like to scratch away!

Getting the Water In and Out

Hoses: A clean, potable hose is needed to put fresh, safe water into your birth pool. Those designed to be drinking water safe are appropriate because they are free of lead and other harmful chemicals. You will be filling your tub from either a sink faucet or shower head, so measure before you buy to get the right length.

Camco TastePURE Drinking Water Hose 25', $9.97,

Adapters: You will need a hose adapter for your shower or faucet. These are a couple of dollars and can be purchased online or in hardware stores. Every faucet is different. Please do a trial run in plenty of time to reorder if needed.

Dechlorinating filter: Occasionally, my clients are concerned about the chlorine content of their water, especially if they are getting water from the city (not well water). If this is a concern for you, dechlorinating water filters for your shower can be purchased here for around $40.00 and kept in place for chlorine-free showers.

Water pump: For removing the water from your tub after your birth, you have various options. Pumps can be external (connects to the hose outside of the pool) or submersible. External pumps are least expensive, but very loud. The EcoPlus Eco 396 Submersible Pump, $22.44,, is an affordable option and comes with multiple adaptors for various hose fittings. You will need a second length of hose to go from the pump to wherever the water will be disposed.

OUR FAVORITE: The two-way siphon. These devices, designed to empty and refill aquariums, are the ultimate for home birth with an inflatable tub. These allow you to remove cool water from the tub and replace with warmer water from the faucet throughout labor. No more messy bailing with buckets and boiling pots of water on the stove. When you want to remove water from the pool, you simply flip the switch near the faucet connection and turn on the water, creating a siphon and sending water down the drain.

Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance system-25 ft, $39.99,

Everything Else

  • Towels. So, so many towels. 

  • Flashlight

  • Floating thermometer

  • Debris removal net. (hint: Solo or styrofoam cup with holes punched in the bottom work in a pinch)

  • A provider who is comfortable with water birth

You are finally ready to bring your baby into the world in this gentle, lovely way. Remember that not every person ends up delivering in the water. Your midwife may ask you to get out of the tub for some complications or you may decide in labor that you need a change of scenery. If you are planning a hospital birth, you may still like having a tub at home for labor before you go in.  Happy birthing!

Alison VanTilburg