A waterbirth can take place, in the home, in a hospital, birthcentre or even outdoors in a ocean tidal pool or other natural pool.

The first question that people always ask is "But doesn't the baby drown when it's born under water". The answer is an emphatic "NO!".

The baby has been surrounded by water, or more specifically amniotic fluid, for nine months. The baby "breathes" through the placenta and umbilical cord and continues to do so until the cord is severed. Another fascinating aspect of newborns is that they will not even try and breath until their skin comes into contact with air, and for atleast 10 days after the birth they retain the "dive reflex" that ensure they hold their breath as soon as their face might be submerged in water.

The benefits of giving birth in water are more for the mother, in that warm water is a brilliant form of pain relief. It has also been seen to speed up labour when it is used correctly. "The Waterbirth Book" by Janet Balaskas goes into detail about how to use water with maximum effect during labour.

In hospitals that have an active birth room, you will be able to have access to a large bath. If your partner is happy to do so, s/he can also join you in the bath to offer support. In some cases a midwife may even join you in the water to assist in the final stages of birth.

For a homebirth, it will be necessary to hire or buy a birth pool. If you are lucky enough to have a large bath then this too can be used for the birth. Birth pools that are hired will normally be supplied with a lining that can be disposed of after the birth. In the case that a lining is not supplied, it is important to enquire as to how the bath is sterilised between uses. It is also advisable to hire a pool that comes with either piples that can be run from taps to the birth pool, or with a pump. One that is supplied with a pump can also make life a lot easier when it comes to emptying the pool.

There are also some instances where women, fortunate enough to live in temperate climates, who have elected to labour and birth in natural pools. Examples of this can be seen in a fascinating DVD called "Birth As We Know It".

WATERBIRTH VIDEOS: