Do it Yourself Water Birth Set Up

-Ril Giles

I've been advocating waterbirth since my daughter's birth back in 2000. Since then I've been recommending the kiddie pool setup to hundreds of women who are looking for a cheap option, showing families how to setup and take down the birthing pool using the waterbed kit, and also have birthed my second child in water in Feb of 2005, into a kiddie pool.

The first question I usually get when a women asks me about a waterbirth, is " But I don't have a hot tub or a Jacuzzi tub, how can I do this?"

Many women think that if they can't afford the high price of a rental tub, or find a facility that offers waterbirths, they are out of luck.

But I'm here to tell you that is not the case. The setting up for a water birth does not need to be complicated or expensive.

In fact this setup is easily portable and could be a waterbirth kit set up for midwives to do for their clients, as many midwives are doing now.

If money and facilities are an issue, don't fret, you too can have your water birth you want for under $50.00. You don't need a birthing center, or a Jacuzzi pool in your home. You too, can have your water birth right in the middle of your living room

All you really need is a durable kiddie pool, a water bed hook up kit, a garden hose and a running hot water source ( the kitchen sink, or the shower head.)

our birthing pool getting set up in our small apartment kitchen eating area.

A waterbed hook up kit can be purchased at for under about $5.00 from Wal-Mart.

Your average gardenhose for under $10.00

The pool we used was $19.95 (on sale at end the of summer), but it runs about $29.99 Canadian on stocked summer shelves of department stores. This type of kiddie pool made by INTEX and other pool companies with similar design is perfect for Waterbirths. You can get them Wal-Mart, Zellers, Canadian Tire, Toy’s “R” Us, and even online.

The water bed kit is very easy to use and can be purchased at your local water bed supply store or department store like Wal-Mart, or Zellers. It runs about $5.00 Canadian.

We used the cheap $10 dollar garden hose from Canadian Tire. We had it on hand anyway since we use it for our filling our water bed when we have moved from place to place. Just the green garden variety hose is all you will need, though some people who are particular about plastic contaminates have purchased a drinking water grade hose for RV's instead. This is, of course, a personal choice. I didn't worry about it. The amount of any chemicals that could leech out of the hose would be no worse then the chemicals coming from the plastic my computer is made of, and I couldn’t afford the drinking grade hose. I felt the risk was so minimal it was not worth the concern. You can make your own decisions. Just make sure the hose will be long enough to reach from the water source to the pool. Ours was 50 feet long, far longer then we needed for our sons birth, but just right for our daughter's birth back in 2000, when we had it running from the kitchen all the way down the hall to her bedroom. The shorter the hose, the less loss of heat from the water before it reaches the pool, so setting up close to your water source, with the minimum length of hose needed to reach is advantageous.

The Pool

We used the round three ringed Intex pool with the cute little fish all over it, measuring 60" x 22" (152cm x 56cm) for our births. The inflatable bottom one I used for my daughter's birth was much more comfortable for me than the plain bottomed pool we used for my son's birth. But, this can easily be remedied with comforters on the floor under a tarp for water spillage safety, so you're not sitting or kneeling on the hard floor.

Among water birthing families, this pool is very popular. It is a very durable 12 ga. vinyl pool and holds 106 gals (400 L) of water. We found that was very comfortable for me and my husband to be in together. Keep in mind, though, I am a very short women, only 4 foot 11 inches tall. If your taller, you might want to get a bigger kiddie pool.

Contray to claims on some birth pool rental websites, there is not only one kiddie pool to chose from. They would like you to beleive that they are a better choice over a kiddie pool. Comparing the smallest option in a kiddie pool to their pool via pictures only, without giving actual sizes, to make their pool look like a better option is misleading to women looking to use a kiddie pool for labour and birth.

Kiddie pools ARE comfortable and can accommodate your size well, no matter how big a person you are. There are many options out there, even larger then the rental birth pools out there. Just do a google search for "inflatable kiddie pools" and look at the image results.

The Ocean Reef is a newer model of kiddie pool being used for water births a lot now, that is deeper then most birthing pool rental options.

The bigger one might be better for you if your over about 5 foot 3 inches, especially If you plan to have hubby or a birth companion in the water with you.

In early labour, concentrating through a strong contraction, as you can see the water covers my belly well.

Here in transition with intense back pain, I am up on my knees and lifting myself up with the pool and my husband's support.

What about the durability of a kiddie pool?

Some doubters of the kiddie pool set up will talk about durability of the pool, compared to rental birth pool with hard sides. With my sons birth I was in and out of the pool for three days while labouring with contractions every 5 to 10 minutes. One thing I know about is the kiddie pool's durability! The pool stood up well to the in and out for over 47 hours of labour, the leaning on the edge of it to push and birth my son into my husband's hands and the many many top ups to keep the pool warm enough over that time.

The three rings of the pool inflate giving it a very rigid side that is good at supporting the weight of the birthing momma, if she chooses to lean on it like I did.

Birthing my son's head, leaning back with all my upper weight on the pool's side. You can see it holds up well.

What about the weight of the filled pool?

Many people ask about the support of the floor holding that much water. It really is not a problem unless you live in a really old house ready to fall over. In which case, chose the bottom floor of the house and place the pool on the floor near a load bearing wall.

I have known woman to waterbirth in mobile homes, apartments, houses, small cabins, on their back yard deck, and in their back yard with this pool. It is very versatile, and doesn't cause issues with the floor holding the weight.

How does it compare to a real birthing pool?

Our kiddie pool was more than adequate to cover my contracting belly when sitting up and gave me the option to birth sitting or even on all fours, with both of us in the pool at the same time. Granted a deeper pool would have been nice, but when your working with a very limited budget and space, it worked just fine to gently birth my son into this world.

After a lot of comparison, the intex pool we used was virtually identical in dimensions and construction to the rental-type birth pools that are offered for rent up to $300.00.

The significant difference, of course, is a filter and a heater. We remedied this, using the waterbed hook-up to drain and fill water at will to regulate the temperature.

The drainage with the waterbed kit is so fast, as long as you have an adequate hot water tank, a heater is not really necessary.

Any portable inflatable pool has basically the same construction as a hot tub, spa, birth pool, with the 3 or 4 inflatable rings and the inflatable padded bottom for bum comfort, and when the pool is filled with water it provides quite adequate support for labouring mother.

If you are really worried about the sides being firm enough for leaning on you can always choose to add support to the pool by placing it in the corner of a room where the walls will add a little extra rigidity, but it really isn't necessary.

Laughing between contractions 5 minutes apart.
About 10 minutes before water breaks and transition starts

I advise having the pool inflated and in a room that you don’t use much (away from cats if you have them, since they like to poke holes with their claws) from about a month before your expected due date. Both my children were early at 34 weeks and 38 weeks.

You never know when the little one will show up, and you want to be prepared. I was very surprised to birth my daughter 5 weeks ahead of time. I’m so glad we had at least the pool ready, since we hardly had anything else set up and ready to go. We thought we had an extra month to prepare and were caught a little unprepared. Her bedroom where she was birthed still had drop cloths on the floor and NO furniture or dressers with baby clothes in them, from the painting we had been doing earlier the day before she was born.

Knowing I would not be likely to go to 40 weeks with my son's pregnancy, at 37 weeks we blew up the pool and had it ready for when he decided to arrive. He showed up 6 days later at 38 weeks weighting in at 8 pounds 13 ounces!

Pool Set Up

Get your pool blown up using a pump, or you'll run out of air trying to do it with your lungs! :)

Set up where you want it to be for birthing. Keep in mind that spilling can occur and place a shower curtain, or tarp and then a old sheet under the pool if necessary.

Let's Start filling up the pool!!

Unscrew the faucet from the kitchen tap or the shower head from the shower pipe, and attach this white adapter from the water bed kit.

Next screw on the blue waterbed kit to the white adapter on the tap ( the correct end will have the word "faucet" on it, that is the part that connects to the white adaptor)

Run the hose from the birthing pool to the waterbed kit, and screw the hose into the side nozel on the kit.

Make sure the part at the bottom of the waterbed kit is in the up position to allow the water to flow through the hose for filling, and no water is coming out of the bottom of the kit. (We will be using this again later to empty the pool, in the down position)

Now you can begin filling up the pool, start with fully hot water to start (don't let Momma-to-be in the pool yet!) and then add cool water to achieve your desired temp.

Temperature of the water should not go over 102 degrees Fahrenheit for safety precautions for mom and baby. We used a candy thermometer we had on hand and let it float in the pool so we knew what the temp was at all times.

You don't want it to get too cold either, during labour this can be very uncomfortable, and slow down the labour process.

When the pool is filled and mom is labouring, to add more warm water, you will need to drain out some of the water and then add more back in like I will demonstrate below. For purposes of the picture demonstrations, let's pretend the bucket in the sink is the birth pool.

Draining the pool after the birth, or to drain and then refill to warm up during birth.

We used the water bed hook up and hose for draining when we had our water birth. It worked very well. I was very pleased.

For clean up, we made sure that any pieces of the amniotic sac and other biological matter that may occur were scooped up so it did not interfere with the hoses suction when we emptied it. ( This easily flushes down the toilet)

Ready to Drain the Pool?

First for about 30 seconds, you run some more water back into the pool with the hose under the water to create the suction. Remember that the hose must remain under the water level the whole time or the suction will be lost and draining will stop.

To start the siphon/suction started as the water is running back into the pool, switch the bottom of the kit to the down position so the water starts running out of the draining part of the waterbed kit into the sink.

The water will start pouring out the bottom of the kit and down the drain and will create the suction.

You simply run the cold water and keep the hose under the water surface until the pool is empty in order to keep the siphon working.

Everything just goes down the kitchen sink, or shower that you used to fill the pool. Simple and easy.

Going,going,going,gone! Simple and easy cleanup.

I used green food color in the water so you could see in the picture the water level going down.

This little $5.00 kit makes it so easy! The running water causes suction and acts as gravity, so even if the hose is running "uphill" into the sink the draining will still occur.

Once that is all done it is just a matter of taking the pool outside (if season permits) or to the tub to spill out the rest of the small amount of water that could not be suctioned. Wash it out with antibacterial soap and a little bleach. Dry the pool well by allowing it too completely air dry before you deflate it. You can let it hang over the rail or in the tub for a bit, before deflating and folding up. Your pool is ready to use with your baby when they want to splash in the back yard in the summer heat, or for your next birth. Remember though, It has to be completely dry before you fold it up or it could harbour mildew in the moisture, or even cause the plastic to stick together causing holes in the side wall seams.

When you get all your water birthing equipment together, have a trial run before the birthing day arrives. Make it fun. Fill up the pool, turn down the lights, and put on some soft music. Climb in the warm pool and enjoy it. Get a feel for the room available and the possible positions, as well as how long it will take to fill it with enough warm water. A "dry" wet run will give you an idea how well your hot water heater stands up to needing that much water at once, and also how long it takes for your heated to warm up again, compared to how fast the temperature leaves the water. This "dry" run also gives you good practice at draining the pool as well.

May you have a beautiful, peaceful, and empowering waterbirth!

Want to share your waterbirth's kiddie pool pictures with us? Click on the pool picture below to send us your kiddie pool picture.