Waterbirth in Australia has become very popular in recent years.
Many women want to know if they have this option available to birth their baby.
Water for labor and birth has many positive benefits for you and your baby.
Talk to your healthcare professional about putting it into your birth plan for the optimal birth experience. It could be the best choice you ever make.
In this article, we will discuss water births, specifically in Australia.
Benefits of water birth in Australia
Australia offers both public and private maternity care.
You can read more about these choices in Who Cares? Maternity Care Options For Australian Women.
Water allows you to move with ease during labor, by taking the pressure or weight of the baby off your body. This supports a more active birth.
Both heat and water offer pain relief, and make the surges manageable, giving you the ability to cope with labor and/or birth.
The warm water allows the tissues of the perineum to stretch as the baby’s head is crowning. The perineum is the area between the anus and the vagina. This greatly reduces the chances of tearing or vaginal trauma.
Where can I water birth in Australia?
Currently, in Australia you can have a birth in water in the following situations:
- At birth centres with midwifery group practice
- In hospitals that have pools or birth tubs and trained staff
- With endorsed midwives (private midwives) with hospital access rights
- With endorsed midwives (private midwives) in the comfort of your own home
- Free birthing at home
- In a private hospital with an obstetrician – very few support water immersion for labor and birth.
Hospitals and birth centres won’t allow water births if you’re considered high risk or don’t meet the following criteria:
- Low-risk pregnancy with no complications and a healthy baby
- Healthy and in a healthy weight range
- Having only 1 baby who is presenting head first
- At least 37 weeks pregnant when in labor.
If any of these criteria change before you go into labor, you might be able to labor in the birth pool (water immersion) but not birth your baby in the birthing pool.
Water birth sites in Australia
Here is a list of water birth sites:
New South Wales
- Belmont Hospital
- Blacktown Hospital
- Campbelltown Hospital
- Coffs Harbour Health Campus
- Cooma Hospital
- Gosford Hospital
- Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital & Community Health Services
- Murundhu dharaa Birthing Centre
- Mullumbimby Hospital
- Liverpool Hospital
- Mona Vale Hospital
- Moruya Hospital
- Nepean Hospital
- Queanbeyan Hospital
- Royal Hospital for Women
- Royal North Shore Hospital
- Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
- St George Hospital
- Sutherland Hospital
- Westmead Hospital
- Wyong Hospital
- Alice Springs Hospital
- Cairns Base Hospital
- Charters Towers Health Centre
- Gold Coast University Hospital
- John Flynn Private Hospital
- Mareeba Hospital
- Mackay Base Hospital
- Redland Hospital
- Royal Women’s Hospital
- Sunshine Coast Private Hospital
- Toowoomba Hospital in QLD
- Townsville Hospital Birth Centre
- Flinders Medical Centre
- Lyell McEwin Health Service
- Mount Barker and Districts Soldiers Memorial Hospital
- Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- Bairnsdale Regional Health Service
- Benalla and Districts Memorial Hospital
- Box Hill Hospital
- Barwon Health
- Casey Hospital
- Frankston Hospital
- Goulburn Valley Health
- Mildura Aboriginal Corporation
- The Royal Women’s Hospital
- Albany Health Campus
- Armadale Health Service
- Bunbury Regional Hospital
- Family Birth Centre, King Edward Memorial Hospital For Women
- Kaleeya Hospital
- Osborne Park Hospital
- Launceston Birth Centre
- Royal Hobart Hospital
This list isn’t exhaustive, and there might be others that aren’t on this list.
If you know of a water birth location that’s not on this list, let BellyBelly know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why don’t all Australian hospitals provide water birth?
Hospital policies or guidelines can get in the way of women who want to labor and or birth in water.
In the past, it was thought to be unsafe for a baby to be born in the water. A lack of understanding meant guidelines for water births were outdated and staff weren’t trained to support women birthing in water.
Fortunately, the research is increasingly showing the benefits of water births and more hospitals are upgrading their facilities to include it as an option, with trained staff.
How do I access a private midwife for water birth in Australia?
Labour and birth in water, at home with a private midwife, is becoming increasingly popular as it’s easier to access.
Private midwives are highly skilled and have completed many years of training to support birth in any environment.
Private midwives are experts in normal pregnancy and birth, setting the gold standard for maternity care.
To find out more, check out Birth Options In Australia: Public, Private, Birth Centre, or Home?.
If you would like to find a private midwife, search online for a local private midwife, or check out Homebirth Australia.
How do I access a midwifery group practice for water birth in Australia?
If your local hospital has a midwifery group practice, this is also a great option to access water birth.
MGPs will book up fast so it’s wise to apply for the program as soon as you know you’re pregnant.
You also must live in the catchment for the hospital and fit the criteria for midwifery group practice – such as having one baby, being healthy, and having no complications.
Does RANZCOG support water birth in Australia?
In the past, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) didn’t support labor and birth in water in any location.
Historically, Australia has a highly medicalized approach to birth. This has been seen across many industrialized countries, as birth moved out of the home, under the care of a midwife, and into the hospital, under the care of doctors.
This moved birth into the domain of medicine, and technology around maternity care flourished. Pain relief and intervention rates increased, which meant birth was seen as dangerous, rather than a normal life event for a mother.
The medical philosophy surrounding labor and birth is to manage it to avoid problems.
Although this might be appropriate in rare situations, most women can give birth normally without any interventions if they’re supported in the right environment.
You can read more about this in Undisturbed Labour – What Is It And Why Aim For One?.
In 2017, RANZCOG reviewed its negative stance toward water immersion and birth, to support these practices in the hospital. They have certain practice guidelines relating to staff training and infection control.
What do I need for a water birth?
If you’re planning a birth at home with private midwives, they might supply a pool or pool liner. Hospitals and birthing centres that offer labor and birth will have all the equipment you need, but you can check off this list to be sure:
- A birth pool with a liner, for infection control
- Hose adaptor to connect to house tap (for home birth)
- A food grade hose (for home birth)
- A fish scoop (for any debris or pooping during labor)
- Rubbish bin with liner
- Waterproof torch
- Waterproof thermometer to check temperature is a safe 36.5-37.5 Celsius
- Mirror (helps midwives to see during labour and the mother can watch baby being born)
- Regular supply of hot water
- Plenty of towels
- Floor covering under the birth pool
- Container for placenta if you wish to keep it (placenta encapsulation).
How many women give birth in water in Australia?
It’s really difficult to find accurate numbers of water birth in Australia as there’s no research or statistics published.
Immersion in water isn’t well documented, despite the huge amount of evidence supporting its benefits for pain relief in labor and for reduced tearing.
It is very clear there needs to be more research in this area.
Can I have a water birth at my local hospital?
Many hospitals and birth centres offer immersion in water during labor, but not all allow birth in water. They might require you to leave the birthing pool when you’re getting close to birthing your baby.
Most hospitals won’t allow a portable pool kit, as it doesn’t meet occupational health and safety standards. They will have a bath or pool in your room, or several on the maternity ward.
When planning where you will give birth, if birthing in water is important to you, check what’s on offer at each facility.
Discuss with your healthcare professional the benefits and risks associated with water immersion and birth.
If you would like more information about birth in water, please read:
- Water Birth – Everything You Need To Know
- Water Birth – Preparing For Birth in Water
- Water Birth Study Finds No Increased Risk To Infants.