Where can I give birth?

Where you give birth is your choice. It could be at home, in a midwife-led birth centre, or in the hospital.

You can decide where to give birth, although you will want to think about where you live, the facilities in your area and the kind of pregnancy you are having. 

You can choose to give birth: 

  • in hospital
  • in a midwife-led birth unit or centre
  • at home.

Where you give birth is up to you and you should be supported in the choice you make. 

If you are healthy and having a straightforward pregnancy, you can go for any option. 

If you have a health problem, or you are having a complicated pregnancy, your healthcare team may strongly suggest which place you should choose. This is for the safety of you and your baby. But they should respect and support your choice of birthplace, even if it is not what they recommend. 

While you are making your choice, it can help to think about: 

  • the pain relief options you would like to have
  • the equipment or facilities you'd like to use, such as birthing pools
  • the maternity services in your area and how close they are 
  • whether you want to avoid interventions such as forceps
  • whether you'd prefer to be in hospital in case your baby needs special care straight after they are born
  • what would be the most relaxing labour experience. This could be a water birth at home or a hospital birth.

Your midwife can explain the pros and cons of each place of birth during your antenatal appointments. 

It may help to talk it through with loved ones. If you go to antenatal classes, you could also talk to the person running them. They can give you an idea of what it’s like to give birth in different places. 

Some labour wards and birth centres give you the option to look around, and most will have video tours on their website. 

You may find your needs change as your pregnancy goes on. If so, you can always change your mind about your birthing options.

You can include your chosen place of birth in your birth plan. Just try to bear in mind that things do not always go to plan in labour. You do need to be prepared for that. 

For example, certain facilities may not be available on the day or there may be complications that make a transfer to hospital the safest option.

Having your baby in hospital

A labour ward in a hospital will have the widest range of medical facilities on offer. Unless your pregnancy has been complicated, you will likely be cared for by midwives, but there will be doctors nearby if needed. It’s sometimes also called a delivery suite, a consultant-led unit or an obstetric unit.

All labour wards are different, so it’s a good idea to book a tour if you can, either in person or online. You could also ask your midwife in advance what facilities are there. Many have birthing pools, and do all they can to create a relaxed atmosphere. 

“I took a tour at the hospital. It’s great to see for yourself where things are and how it all looks so it’s not as scary on the big day!”


It’s likely you’ll be advised to give birth at the hospital if:

If you go into labour early (before 37 weeks), you will be admitted to hospital so you and your baby can be given any specialist care you need.

You might also prefer a hospital birth if: 

  • you want an epidural – this isn’t an option at home, or in most midwife-led units
  • you would feel better being close to specialist doctors. 
  • you are worried about the chance of needing interventions (such as an assisted birth) and want to avoid a transfer to hospital later in labour.

Having your baby in a birth centre or midwifery unit

Birth centres and midwifery units are run by midwives. They focus on birth with lesser medical intervention. They are often more homely and relaxed and have more birthing pools. 

All midwife-led units are different though, so it’s a good idea to book a tour if you can. You can also ask your midwife what facilities are on offer there.

Your local birth centre might be part of a hospital maternity unit. In this case they are often right next to the labour ward. This means you have very easy access to doctors and specialist care if you need it. 

Others are in the community, often called freestanding or standalone birth units. If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, and do not have any problems during labour, you can have all your care at your birth centre. 

Bear in mind that you will need to be transferred to a labour ward if you change your mind and want an epidural or if there are complications. It may help to find out how long it would take to get to hospital, and which one you would be transferred to.

Your midwife may suggest you give birth in a midwife-led unit. This may be because:

  • you are less likely to need interventions such as an assisted birth, episiotomy (a cut in your perineum) or caesarean section than if you were in hospital
  • if this is your first baby giving birth in a birth centre is slightly safer for your baby than having a home birth.

Having your baby at home

If you have a home birth, your midwife will come to your home when you're in labour and stay with you until after your baby has been born. A second midwife will join you before the birth to give extra help. 

If you’ve had a baby before, and this pregnancy is low risk, giving birth at home is a safe option. This is because:

  • you are less likely to need an assisted birth (forceps or ventouse), episiotomy (a cut in your perineum) or caesarean section
  • the risk of your baby having a major medical problem is very low. Your baby is no more at as safe as being in hospital or a midwife-led unit.
  • you may be more relaxed at home
  • it may be more convenient to be at home if you have other children.

If you choose to give birth at home, you will need to be transferred to hospital if you want an epidural, or if there are any complications. It may help to find out how long it would take if you needed to go in and which hospital you would be transferred to.

Find out more about the pros and cons of giving birth at home.

More about birth choices

NICE (2023). Intrapartum care. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng235. (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 29/09/2023)

NHS (2021) Where to give birth: the options. Available at: www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/preparing-for-the-birth/where-to-give-birth-the-options/ (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 08/04/2021. Next review due 08/04/2024)


Review dates
Reviewed: 29 February 2024
Next review: 28 February 2027