Have you heard of it?
I first heard about the birth pool test on Catherine Bell's Birth Map social accounts not long after I'd had my second baby, and my first thought was "oh, I wish I had read this a couple of months ago".
Because I had my second baby via repeat caesarean after a hospital transfer from a planned homebirth and long labour with no progression. And it was an overall positive experience, because I made informed decisions and I was in control. But I had wondered (and still do, to be honest, but less often) whether I could have done anything else to get my baby down and out of my vagina.
French obstetrician, Michel Odent, describes the Birth Pool Test as a way to determine a true obstructed labour and give an opportunity for a caesarean while mother and baby are not in distress. The concept is summarised neatly in this statement: "When a woman in hard labor enters the birthing pool and gets immersed in water at the temperature of the body, a spectacular progress in the dilation is supposed to occur within an hour or two."
The idea is that if there is no progress in dilation after an hour or two in the birth pool in the right circumstances - dimly lit, private (including no cameras), and quiet - it is reasonable to assume there is an obstructed labour and the woman has the opportunity to choose a caesarean at that stage, rather than continuing down a pathway involving pain relief and labour augmentation drugs before finally ending up with a caesarean at the last minute under true emergency conditions.
What I love about the idea of the Birth Pool Test is that it gives women the chance to change pathways, calm and informed, with the knowledge that she is incredibly likely to need this caesarean in the end anyway.
One of the challenges we caesareans mums often face is wondering how necessary our caesarean really was, and this test helps take some of that guesswork away. Having now gone through both an induced labour ending in caesarean and a spontaneous labour ending in caesarean, I can say for sure that I would always prefer to elect for the caesarean ahead of a true emergency (which is what I did with my second birth, incidentally, although we were approaching fetal distress territory and I was ready to call it) and it would be so wonderful to be able to do so feeling quite certain in that decision.
Highly recommend having a read over the article Michael Odent wrote on the Birth Pool Test, and let me know what you think!
My name is Katelyn Commerford and I am a doula and next birth after caesarean guide who has completed comprehensive doula education. If you want to know more about what I do and how I can help you, please visit my website where you can get your free cheat sheet of my favourite VBAC resources, or find me on instagram @thenbacguide where I answer commonly asked questions about planning the next birth after caesarean and share loads pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting content.
Business Name: Katelyn Commerford - Doula and NBAC Guide
Phone: 0431 369 352