Installing a Birthing Bath

professionally installed birthing pool

There is no mystery to installing a birthing bath.  In may ways they are simpler than domestic baths because our baths are one-piece Single -Surface baths.  Midwives designed the bath from the top down, and plumbers designed it from the bottom up!

Usually, the bath arrives into a near-finished room.  Plumbing should already been in place behind an IPS panel.  All that should be visible is a small piece of 40mm solvent weld pipe protruding from the very bottom of the IPS (or no more than 25mm from the floor).  Taps are in place by this stage too.

In terms of taps, we don’t recommend any, but have a short guide sheet (pdf).  We know taps from the Ideal Bluebook range are commonly used.  For example, one Trust repeatedly favoured using two of the following so that there was a double supply of mixed supply hot water.  The reason being that 22mm taps that are HTM compliant are very difficult to source and a 15mm tap would take too long to fill the bath.  http://www.idealspec.co.uk/catalogue/bluebook/brassware/contract/contour-21/contour-21-single-control-mixer-and-15-23cm-spout_p351.html

Rada Sensor taps are also very popular.

  Looking in through the hatch, the finished pipe work should look like this.  The valve should be as close to the hatch door as possible so that the midwives are not having to reach right in under the bath.  The valve is supplied with the bath.  The pipe either side of the valve must be clamped to support the valve and to stop the pipework being twisted by the constant use of the valve.

Anyway, first things first.  This is a 2-3 person job – you’ll see why.  When we install a bath, we put down lots of padding and tip the bath on its side onto the padding.  This way, we can, using a long level or straight edge, adjust the feet to match the base of the pool.  The bath is designed to sit both on the basal rim of the bath and on the feet.  This is why our baths are so good at spreading the load.  If you don’t think you can put the pool on its side without scratching it, don’t – the warranty doesn’t cover it.

It is also easier to silicone in place the waste and, if ordered, the LED lights. The latter are fitted in the same way as a waste – a backnut and a lot of silicone!  Once all that’s done, carefully turn the bath back onto its base.

Offer up the end of the bath to the IPS.  This way, you’ll see where the waste pipe will come through the end of the bath.  mark and drill it out.

First to go on the tail of the waste is an elbow and the waterless trap.  The Hepworth vO is a good choice but other versions are now available.  Do  not use a U-bend or shower trap.  They hold water which will just become a source of infection issues.

ideal pipe bends
Avoid sudden 90 degree corners in the pipe run.

 

 

Next comes the valve and the remaining piperun to join on to the piece of 40mm pipe protruding through the base of the IPS (and through the end of the bath you’ve just drilled!).  Don’t glue the pipework before you’ve tried it all in place.  You may want to mark where the clamps either side of the valve are to go.  It is easier to pull the bath back, drill and then put it in place.  Finish the pipework.

Screw the bath to the IPS and, through flanges on the base in the hatch area, to the floor.  Silicone round.

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.”

 

 

 

 

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.

New Bespoke Birth Pool Being Installed at Leeds

Midwife-led design IMAG0178

Made in Yorkshire.

Designed by midwives and Bradford-based firm Aquabirths, made in Yorkshire: a brand new birthing bath has been installed today at the Leeds General Infirmary so that Yorkshire mothers can birth their babies in water.