Things to consider before buying and installing a birthing pool

Things you need to consider when installing a birthing pool – a Midwife’s guide.


As the demand for active birth – and water births in particular – increases, more and more trusts and birthing units are installing birthing pools. Here, David Weston, owner of Aquabirths in West Yorkshire shares his expertise and experience and gives guidance on “where to start”.


As with many things in midwifery, you have to start with the plumbing.  Is there already a bath in the room where you plan to put your pool?  Or at least a sink?  If the plumbing is in place to begin with, it makes life a lot easier and the job a lot cheaper.  One critical thing is the height of the existing waste water pipe. 


Ideally, the waste water will leave the room either at, or very close to, floor level so that pipe-work from plughole to waste drain is at a steep enough gradient to enable the water to empty quickly.  A valve and a trap need to be fitted in under the bath and it’s a case of getting them in before you run out of height. If the waste pipe is a few inches up the wall, then the bath will probably need to be raised, which can add to the overall cost of the build.


Space. When putting a pool into a birthing room, you might also want to consider what else you want in the room.  Other room uses may impinge on the bath – for example, plug sockets for CD-players need to be at least 3m from the bath. It’s always a good idea to make contact with an experienced Birth Pool specialist very early in the process. Any company worth their salt will be willing to chat through your options with you, or be prepared to visit you, even before you have engaged an architect or project manager.


I have seen rooms with birthing pools left unused or – worse still – used as storage rooms! Allowing time to properly consider how best to equip the room with other equipment can avoid this. If you want a bed in the room with the birth pool, will you want to be able to move the bed in and out also? Will there be enough room to do so. You don’t want to find yourself in a position of not being able to offer the birth pool to women who want it because someone rammed it with a bed and the estates office have told you it can’t be used.   


Colours and features.  Gone are the days of “it comes in white…or white” A birthing bath can be any colour and any shape you want and many of the baths we have installed have been adapted to suit the needs of individual midwifery teams. If you have a “dream” birthing pool in mind, don’t be afraid to ask. Modern moulding techniques mean that bespoke baths are much more affordable than they were ten years ago.


When it comes to taps, choice can be a little more limited because of the various regulations that apply to hospitals. Any good birth pool company will know their way round these regulations and should still be able to offer you a number of alternatives. It is probable that this is something that can be sorted by the hospital’s Estates Department.  You can also request additional features and modifications such as LED lights inside the bath, a choice on the position of the waste outlet and even the addition of an anti-bacterial gel coating.


Make it a Team Effort Involve the Estates Department as early as is possible / helpful to you. They may be able to help with much of the above and undertake some of the works to make your budget go as far as possible.  We do offer an installation service for our pools so you can be sure it is fitted correctly.  However, budgets are often stretched and it should be possible for the hospital’s own Estates Department to fit the bath.  Make sure your pool comes with instructions and telephone support from the birth pool provider. 


If you’re not sure, ask. A birth pool may be one of your biggest investments of the year, so don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the process. Once the bath is in, it’s sometimes too late to make changes so keep the channels of communication open throughout the design, build and installation process.  A good birth pool company will have time to talk through your options and be willing to answer any questions you have. It’s a good idea to have clarification on points you are unsure of in writing to avoid any confusion or surprises later down the line. If you discuss something with your birth pool provider on the phone, drop them a quick email afterwards to confirm what you agreed. Don’t assume that because you know exactly what you want, they do too – they’ll only know if you tell them.


And finally – once your pool is installed, make a bit of noise about it. Be sure to let the local press know about your fabulous new facilities (your birth pool company may be able to help you with this) and invite local stakeholders, community midwives, doulas, GPs, practice nurses and mums to be to come and take a tour of your new birthing room. You wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes and never wear them, likewise don’t commission a pool and forget to show it off – that way it will get used more frequently, you will get your money’s worth and you will see an increase in the number of mums enjoying your new birthing pool.”





Chic-looking Compact Birth Baths

Dunoon compact birth pool

The Dunoon model compact birth bath installed at Royal University Hospital, Bath as part of their refurbishments, which were envisioned and overseen by SR Architects.  The Dunoon model is designed to keep all the room of a birth bath for the mum-to-be but to be efficient in its use of space.  If you have small birth room or space is tight, then the Dunoon birthing pool is ideal.  And with a price tag well under £3000, it is also suitable for hospitals that need to fit out several birthpool rooms.  As with all Aquabirths baths, this bath can be customised and is flexible in its design – the hatch can go either side, it can be fitted side-on or end on.  And, as with all our baths, it is a one-piece bath with a single-surface for strength and superior hygiene control.

Proper Installation of Birthing Pools and False Economies.

I doubt if there is a maternity unit in the UK that isn’t strapped for funds.  Savings always need to be found!  But please don’t scrimp on the installation of the birthing bath – this is a job for a qualified plumber and not a general fitter.   This is not a way of pushing our installation service but simply because we’ve just had to tidy up a mess left by a contractor who didn’t install the bath properly.

It is very important that the bath you have bought, paid to be delivered and installed is put in properly to avoid extra costs and problems down the line.  Make sure Estates or someone ensures the contractor follows the instructions.  If you have queries, ring us.  You could have a site visit before hand so that we can discuss installation; you can also  book for our plumber to be present at installation to offer guidance, at the very least, you could arrange for him to be present to give phone support.  The cost of a site visit (which is only for mileage and time) is discounted from the purchase price (up to a maximum of £200) in any case.

We understand that hospitals will want to make saving where they can but, as we know with a local hospital, the installer put the bath in wrongly and with no consideration of the midwives who will have to use it.  This has caused extra expense, hassle and time-wastage trying to sort it.  Othertimes, the incorrect trap has been used so that Infection Control are unhappy.


Caseloading Community Midwifery

A very useful paper according to none other than Beverley Beech.  More evidence (as if more were needed!) for the need for caseloading community midwifery.  The link below is to the article of the same name as the title of this blog post.

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It can also be found on the blog Bornstroppy.

There is only good plumbing and bad plumbing.

One firm touts their bath as having low profile (sic) fast flow plumbing.

Fast flow, low profile plumbing etc.  This is just unhelpful jargon.  Speed of drainage is a function of the diameter of the plumbing beneath the bath and the distance to the foul drain.  As our plumbers put it, gravity works the same and the only plumbing that counts is good, compliant plumbing.  In the past we were called out by hospitals as they had ‘other’ baths that had started leaking – all were around the plumbing area.  The low profile pipe inserted at an angle to the bath was the point of failure.  It is evident from their brochure (and the exclusions to their guarantees) that this weakness has been recognized if not addressed.

We designed our baths from the plumbing up.  We use only standard, purpose made plumbing fittings because these alone give the best fit, the longest life and are easily replaced by Estates and Maintenance in years to come.  We also introduced the use of the quarter turn ball valve as they are far superior to the gate valves used previously.  We are glad to see that this innovation has been taken up!
We also use waterless traps which still prevent odours and backflow but do not provide a reservoir for the build up of stagnant water.

Also, as our baths are designed to incorporate all the plumbing beneath the bath.  This keeps it all concealed but also the trap can be fitted very close to the bath waste as required by water regulations (BS5572), which reduces the length of ‘uncleanable’ pipework.  We note from ‘tother’ company’s brochure that their standard requirement is still only for trapping in the floor below.  The baths should be trapped in the room as close to the bath as possible without the customer having to order the special adapted higher steel subframe (another expensive fix and design ‘cul-de-sac!). The ‘tother’ company’s website used to advise that it was not necessary to put a trap on the bath, it was sufficient to just close the sluice gate valve.  I know from site visits that there were hospitals that fitted in this way.  Thankfully, we have been imitated in terms of  improved (if not ideal) trapping arrangements and better valves.

These so-called ‘fast flow / low profile’ drains are not only inferior in terms of durability, we have had comments from an NHS infection control department that

“This form of design has infection prevention and control implications with the potential for biofilm development”.

The sooner the ‘fast flow / low profile’ plumbing is seen for the jargon it is, the better.  It is trying to put a positive spin on inferior design and plumbing.

Bradford Royal Infirmary & the Canberra Birth Bath

Birth Rooms by AQB Pools Ltd A couple more pictures from the opening of the new Birth Centre and Bradford Royal Infirmary.

The hospital now has several of the Canberra model birth baths each in its own beautiful new birth room.  The Canberra birth bath is designed to be universal in that it can fit into most rooms and situations.   It is available on short lead times or from stock and costs well under £5000 (and discounts for 2 or more baths).

The photos came from Lorne Campbell / Guzelian.

Letter from a customer

Hi Ruth & David,


Hi Ruth & David,

I’ve finally got the green light to order!

After lots of careful measuring we have realised that the Canberra bath is our preferred option. We are going to order 3 Canberra baths, each with a light, steps and poles.

I have my order book at the ready to complete the process then realised after reading your website we have to attach the quote. Obviously we haven’t got a quote. Can you possibly send me something I can attach so that we can start our journey!

I must say that your heart felt support was overwhelming and gave me the determination to challenge my estates when they said “it couldn’t be done”. I truly cannot thank you enough and look forward to the day when I email you some beautiful pictures! (or you could come and see for your selves!)

Many thanks


Bradford Royal Infirmary

Bradford Birthcentre’s successful launch

It was the launch of the Bradford Birth Centre on 1st February 2013 – already over 280 babies had been born there.  Feedback from Mums is fantastic, the birth pools (which Aquabirths supplied) are in constant use, and the rooms are beautiful.