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A birthing pool is a pool of heated water, about the size of a bathtub or children's swimming pool, that is used for water birthing. Water birthing is the practice of delivering an infant while submerged in water, a practice that proponents say is healthier and less stressful for both the mother and the baby. Often, a birthing pool is used at home, although some clinics and hospitals have pools available on the premises for mothers who wish to use them. Pools for water birthing can be purchased or rented, either from online retailers or from local water birth associations, midwives, or doulas.
There are many different types of birthing pool. Some mothers choose to save money by simply purchasing a children's swimming pool and adapting it for use as a birthing pool. Pools made specifically for water births are also available, usually in the form of a small, inflatable pool, although hard plastic versions are also available. Some pools include an attachment that can be put directly on a faucet head to make filling the pool easier. Another common feature of a birthing pool is a built-in heater, which helps to maintain the water temperature inside the pool.
Many mothers believe that giving birth in a birthing pool is healthier both for them and their babies. The experience is less stressful for the newborn infant because it alleviates them of the jarring experience of leaving the warmth of the womb and entering a cold, unfamiliar environment. It is also less stressful for the delivering mother, as giving birth in a birthing pool is said to be more relaxing than a traditional birthing experience. The warmth of the water decreases muscle pains experienced by the mother, particularly pains in the lower back region, which in turn reduces the mother's need for epidural anesthesia or other painkilling drugs that could be potentially harmful to the baby.
It is important to keep in mind that there are a number of safety issues associated with water births. The depth of the birthing pool can sometimes prevent a midwife from having good access to the mother and the newborn. Also, since birthing pools are often used in a home birth environment, they are not always properly sterilized and could present a risk of infection. It may also be difficult for a midwife or attending physician to determine if the mother has lost too much blood, because any blood lost will diffuse in the water.
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