(Modified from an old blog post I did a couple of years ago, and updated in August 2015)
Whether planning to give birth at home in the water or just want to labour in the water a bit, birth pools can offer birthing women some incredible pain relief. There are several choices on the market. Here is a guide to help you decide which one to get. (Please note that all prices are Canadian).
With this most recent August 2015 update, I have done some comparison photos of most of the birth pools. I wanted to illustrate what these pools looked like with differently sized people in them as well as with 2 people in the pool, so you can get a better idea of what the pool would be like for different sized people and partners. From left to right we have Holly (my sister – 5’0), Jill (me! – 5’4), and Lauren of Maidenhair Birth Services (5’10).
The Aquarium Pool
This is the cheapest way to go. One of these will set you back about $30.00 from most big box stores.
-Holds less water, so less taxing on the hot water tank.
-Many women find them too shallow. Deeper pools allow for more buoyancy, and this allows for greater pain relief. Ideally, you want about 24″ (60cm) of actual water depth for optimal buoyancy and relief
-They are not phthalate or cadmium free. Keep in mind, you are filling this pool with hot water. When the plastic is heated it can leech these chemicals which have been shown to be unhealthy.
-Some of these pools have drain plugs on the bottom. This is a good feature if you’re playing in the back yard. It’s a really bad feature if the pool is set up in a living room and the plug gets accidentally kicked open during labour.
-The quality of material on these is variable. They also do not come with liners, which can act as an extra barrier against leaks and prevent punctures while in use.
-These can be difficult to find in the winter, as they are a seasonal product.
-Not recommended for rentals
Passages Midwifery Pool
The Passages Midwifery pool is designed to fill the space between a kiddie pool and the more expensive birth pools on the market. Most kiddie pools have vinyl that is 0.2mm thick, the Passages Pool is 0.3mm, and other birth pools range from 0.38 Birth Pool in a Box regular to 0.6mm with the Aquaborn. This pool retails for $90. You can see in this older picture how there is a height and size difference from the Aquaborn (the green pool).
– less expensive than other birth pools
– small size means it is less taxing on a hot water tank and faster fill time (good for multips)
– light weight
– BPA free, whereas most kiddie pools are not
– clear bottom rings allow for good visibility
– smaller size does not easily allow for both partners in the water
– less deep, may not be deep enough for a tall woman to get optimal bouyancy (You will also note that only Holly can straighten her legs in the pool)
– single use only, with a warranty that reflects this. This pool does not come with liners, and is not recommended for multiple uses or rentals.
– no handles or lid
– smaller air valves mean that even though this pool is smaller, it actually takes the longest to inflate and deflate – by far. If you are anticipating a quick birth, it is wise to have this pool inflated beforehand.
Here is how people look in the Passages pool:
La Bassine (Made in Water) Birth Pool $155 and $270 for professional with no liners. Heat covers and liners can be purchased separately. The regular pool is blue and the professional model (shown in photos) is purple.
-Designed for birth and use inside the home
-2 handles on the inside of the pool for extra support
-Holds less water than other birth pools, so less taxing on a hot water tank, and faster fill time (good for multips)
-Quickest set-up of any of the pools thanks to large valves and simple design
-Takes up less space than a larger birth pool
-Translucent sides and darker colour make for really nice birth photos
-Has optional fitted liners (recommended, but not a warranty stipulation) and a fitted heat cover (both sold separately). I would consider the liners essential for rentals.
-They tend to last a long time and are a great option for rentals. The professional model has a 10 use/1 year warranty
-Has the most affordable fitted pool liners
-Not height adjustable
-Depending on size, sometimes there is not enough room for the partner to get in comfortably if both people are large.
-No top or outside handles
The La Bassine MAXI Pool
The La Bassine MAXI pool is newer to the Canadian market, but already making a statement. The regular model is $179 and the pro model is $290. Liners and heat cover sold separately. The regular pool is blue (shown in photos) and the professional model is purple (like the La Bassine Pro pictured above).
– If you want a large pool, this one has the most bang for your buck, particularly over time when multiple liner costs are factored in for re-use.
– Has the most internal room to move around in of any of the pools. If both partners are tall and want space, this pool is the best bet.
– Angled internal handles (6 handles total – 4 inside on angles, 2 outside)
– Has optional fitted liners (recommended, but not a warranty stipulation) and a fitted heat cover (both sold separately). I would consider the liners essential for rentals.
– Translucent sides and darker colour make for really nice birth photos
– Height adjustable
– The pro model is great for rentals with a 1 year/ 10 use warranty
– Because it’s large and deep, there is ample room for the addition of a Kaya birth stool or another water-friendly seat/support device.
– Larger, deeper pool, so may be taxing on a small hot water tank and take longer to fill and drain
– Heat cover is sold separately
The Aquaborn Eco Birth Pool
The Aquaborn Eco Birth Pool – These have been discontinued in Canada, so unless you buy one of the last 2 I have in stock today they are not available for purchase. It is, however, a popular rental pool and widely available in that capacity.
I used this pool for the birth of my son in April, 2013. The depth was perfect and it was roomy enough for both my husband and I to be in it together. My son was a tough push, and I was incredibly grateful for the handles and also for my husband’s physical support. To see some action shots, please see the blog post “Capturing Arden’s Birth”.
-Green colour with a white bottom allows for maximum visibility (actually I find the difference quite remarkable).
-Comes with a lid, liner, and outer cover included
-6 handles for maximum versatility
-Large enough to accommodate both partners with room to move
-The deepest birth pool on the market
-The thickest eco-vinyl available for durability (all birth pools and their liners are phthalate and cadmium free).
-Great for rentals
-Larger, deeper pool, so may be taxing on a small hot water tank and take longer to fill
-With the outer cover and multiple chambers to inflate, as well as a large water volume, this pool takes the longest to get up and fill (though still takes less time to inflate with air than the Passages pool)
Birth Pool in a Box
Birth Pool in a Box -$265 for single use warranty pool with liner, $500 for professional pool with no liner+ $30 for heat cover (mini option also available)
-Egg shape make some women feel more cocooned.
-Has a seat and built in cup holder
-Mini option available for smaller spaces/hot water tanks
-Comes with a liner included (single use pool only)
-Regular model is large enough for both partners
-Pro model is great for rentals with a 20 use/1 year warranty
-Mini pro has been my top seller for hospitals choosing to have a water birth program, as it has a great warranty, is durable, but also takes up less space.
-More expensive, and also has the most expensive fitted liners and heat cover
-Regular model has larger water volume, so takes longer to fill and drain than La Bassine and Aquaborn
-Heat cover is sold separately
-If you’re not into using the seat, it might get in your way. If you know this ahead of time, you can just not inflate it and cover with a liner. If the pool is already full you will not be able to deflate it at that point.
Please note that all the pictures here are taken in the MINI PRO pool, as that was what was available at the office when we took the photos. The regular size is quite a bit larger and can accommodate both partners. Holly is sitting in the pool in the opposite direction from Jill and Lauren. Jill and Lauren are sitting on the seat. Holly was the only person that could still stretch out her legs a bit if she wasn’t using the seat.
A purchase would set you back about $1600.00 CAD + shipping, but these are an option for rental companies.
I rented one of these for the birth of my daughter in 2009.
-Heater. You should NEVER use a heater with an inflatable pool, so if you really want a heater, this is the way to go (please note, it can’t heat the water from cold. It just maintains temperature. You still need a decent hot water tank).
-Very sturdy and large, allowing for good movement and buoyancy.
-Not as cushy as inflatables. Many women prefer inflatables for the comfort factor.
-Can be taxing on smaller hot water tanks
-Takes longer and is more complex to set up than inflatable pools (recommended to set-up in advance, especially with multips)
The Inflatable Birth Pool Comparison Chart