Monday, March 23, 2009

Heating a birth pool

A common question among women planning to use a birth pool in labor is how to heat enough water to fill the pool reasonably quickly, and then maintain the water temperature once the pool is full. Most of us here in North America have 30-50 gallon tank water heaters, rather than the tankless gas heaters that much of Europe uses, so we run out of hot water before the pool is full. This is especially challenging if you're using an inflatable pool, rather than one that comes with a built-in heater.

Rather than boiling pots of water on the stove and then hauling them to the birth pool, I have come up with another solution that is portable, fast, and relatively inexpensive. You will need a 5-gallon bucket (plastic or metal), an electric outlet (preferably close to your birth pool), and a bucket heater (the kind used to heat water for livestock tanks). You can find these at a vet/livestock supply store.

These heaters are quick and powerful; they will bring the water to a boil if left in the bucket long enough. This definitely beats boiling water on the stove in relatively small pots and then hauling it to the birth room. Instead, you just put your bucket & bucket heater right near the birth pool, plug it in, and you're good to go!


  1. Thank you soo much, you are the answer to my back's prayers...after doing the back and forth with hot water just last week at a home water birth.
    I shall see if I can find that bucket heater at a livestock store over here in Canada.
    Thanks so much!!

  2. we did the boiling water thing with our second birth. seemed to work out okay, i actually got too hot and got out. lol. after all that! (i think it was actually only 2-3 (big) pots of water.

    however, i do prefer the "heated" pools. that was nice. i enjoyed putting my knees up against the side and feeling the heat. almost like snuggling a heating blanket

  3. We did the boiling pots of water. When people asked what my friend did when she came over, I respond, "Boiled water." A lot of people don't believe me- they think boiling water is some old thing they did back in the day. :)

    We'll have to look into that bucket heater next time.

  4. Love this idea. I am going to have to remember it for future births. Typically, we don't have an issue with water temp - even though my moms use the La Bassine, but in the times that we do, this would be so much easier!

  5. Hey Rixa,

    I made this same suggestion to my friend who recently UC'd at home. (I never tried it myself as I had never known about such devices before moving to the country. Still, I have not used one so I don't know how well they work personally.) So my friend said that heaters for livestock don't heat the water hot enough, only enough to keep them freezing.

    Maybe she had used a different kind? Have you tried this yourself?

  6. 2 thoughts:

    If you are in the market for a tub anyways. They have new tubs on the market that have holes that push out water. Much more sanitary. And they make them deep so you can fill them up to your neck. It is a beautiful thing. I have a terrible spine from being an L&D nurse for so many years so the tub is a g-dsend.

    Second thought. Maybe actually a question. When I did water births in the hospital a bunch of years ago, we had a thermometer that was placed in the tub. We had to keep the water between such and such degrees according to Department of public health. I also had to take the Mom's temperature every hour or so. I don't remember why this was. Maybe a British Midwife could help me out on this one. You guys have any ideas? Do you take Mom's temp when you do water births? Do you read the temp of the water? Just curious.

    I also had gloves that came up to my armpits and a fish net scooper for obvious reasons. And no matter what, I still got water in my long gloves.

  7. Great idea! I loan my clients a birth pool and how to keep the water warm has always been a challenge. Who knew there were so many young couples without large pots in their kitchen?

  8. Pinky--the idea is that if the water is too hot or too cold, the mom can become chilled or overheated (which you probably know). Some people are more rigid about making sure the pool is at a set temperature, usually right around body temp. Others just tell the mom to keep it where it feels comfortable but not where she feels flushed and overheated like you do after too much time in a hot tub. I haven't ever seen midwives take the mom's temp, but then again we do education beforehand and keep an eye out to make sure they don't seem too hot or too cold.

  9. I'll give mine a try in a 5 gallon bucket and see how well it heats the water.

  10. hey Rixa
    Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa sells an adaptor that you can attach to a hose at the tap which will pump water from the pool, then you can refill it, or you can also have another hose from another tap to refill.

    this is the link to the product.
    I'm so glad to hear this baby is now head down!

  11. Great idea!! We did the boiling water thing which worked well even during an Iowa February night, but man was it a pain in the rear! I loved it when fresh hot water was dumped in... oh yeah.

  12. This has been something that I'm pondering. Just so I'm clear, you put the heater in a bucket and then put the bucket in the pool to keep the heater from touching the sides of the pool, or do you heat the water in the bucket and then dump the water from the bucket into the pool?

    My idea was to get a meat thermometer and put it in the pot of water and monitor it, when it got a little above the temp I wanted, we'd dump it in the pool.

    With my first labor, I used the bathtub at home and ran out of hot water so fast that it was not pleasant or helpful at all to use the bathtub.

  13. Jenne,
    I was thinking of using it as a way to heat supplemental buckets of water. You could do it right next to the birth pool--use the same hose for filling (so no hauling buckets around!) and once it's nice and hot, dump the water into the pool and get the next bucket heating. Anyway I need to find our bucket heater and give it a test run.

  14. that is a great idea!!!!

    Simon boiled a LOT of water on the stove while I was labouring... the hot water just felt so good I kept on asking for more...

  15. This is a great idea. I'll definitely be waiting to hear how it works because I was looking for a way to easily heat water to fill an inflatable pool versus getting a tub with a heater.

  16. If Mum gets too hot it can cause foetal tachycardia... that is the main reason for checking Mum's temp. If the water is too cold... that can cause cold stress for the baby at birth.

  17. Most of us here in North America have 30-50 gallon tank water heaters, rather than here the tankless gas heaters that much of Europe uses, so we run out of hot water before the pool is full.

  18. I was very poor growing up and this was how we hated our bath water as we had no running hot water! - Carla

  19. Thank you for the idea! My sister is due anytime and has been going in and out of labor these last few days. We have done a few trials with boiling water in pots and filling with hot water from the tub but needed to find a better way! So after reading this, we bought the bucket heater this morning at the local tractor supply. We suspended the heater in the middle of the tub with a rope and covered the whole thing with a blanket to insulate. It brought the temp from 75° to 102° in just 6 hours! My sister is up walking and squatting as things keep progressing... Should have baby here anytime!


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