Where can I give birth?
Where you can give birth will depend on where you live, or if you’ve had any complications during this pregnancy or any previous pregnancies. Possible places include:
- in hospital
- in a midwife-led birth unit or centre
- at home.
Try not to get anxious about what’s best because your midwife can explain the different options and the pros and cons of each. Where you give birth is up to you and you should be supported in your choice. Just keep in mind that your midwife may advise you to choose one place over another, depending on your circumstances.
It may also help to talk to your family and friends, or the person running your antenatal classes. They can help give you an idea of what it’s like to give birth in different places.
You may find your needs and priorities change as your pregnancy progresses. Don’t worry, you can always change your mind about where you want to give birth.
You can include where you want to give birth in your birth plan. Just try to remember that things don’t always go to plan in labour. You need to be flexible and be prepared to do things differently. For example, certain facilities may not be available on the day or there may be complications.
Having your baby in hospital
A labour ward in a hospital has medical facilities and doctors if you need them. It’s sometimes called a delivery suite or an obstetric unit.
All labour wards are different, so it’s a good idea to book a tour if you can or ask your midwife in advance what facilities are available.
“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!”
You’ll probably be advised to give birth at the hospital if you:
- have any medical conditions
- had problems with a previous pregnancy or birth, such as an emergency caesarean section
- develop complications during your pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia
- are expecting more than one baby or your baby is breech.
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.
Epidurals can only be given in hospitals, so giving birth on the labour ward may be best for you if you want one. You can talk to your midwife about your options for pain relief during your antenatal appointments.
Having your baby in a midwife-led birth centre
Birth centres (midwife-led units) can be more homely than labour wards and the focus is on birth without medical intervention. The units can be in a hospital maternity unit (sometimes referred to as ‘home from home’) or be in the community (sometimes called ‘freestanding’ or ‘standalone’).
All midwife-led units are different, so it’s a good idea to book a tour if you can or ask your midwife in advance what facilities are available.
If you have a low risk pregnancy and don’t have any problems during labour, you can have all your care at your chosen birth centre.
If you choose to give birth in a midwife-led birth centre remember that you will need to be transferred to a hospital labour ward if you want an epidural or there are any complications. It may help your decision to find out how long it would take if you needed to be transferred to hospital and which hospital you would be transferred to.
Your midwife may advise you to give birth in a midwife‑led unit. This is 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, statistically, 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 this is your first baby and you are having a low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancy, you may be advised to give birth in a midwife-led unit instead. This is because, even though you’re having a low-risk pregnancy, home births are statistically slightly less safe for your baby than a labour ward or birth centre if it's your first baby.
If you’ve had a baby before and this pregnancy is low risk, giving birth at home is generally a safe and suitable option. This is because:
- you are less likely to need an assisted birth, episiotomy (cut in your perineum) or caesarean section
- the risk of the baby having a serious medical problem (which is very low) are no higher than if you were in hospital or a midwife led unit
- you may be more comfortable and 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, remember that you will need to be transferred to a hospital labour ward if you want an epidural or there are any complications. It may help your decision to find out how long it would take if you needed to be transferred to hospital and which hospital you would be transferred to.
Find out more about the pros and cons of giving birth at home.
NICE (2014). Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190
NHS Choices. Where to give birth: the options https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/where-can-i-give-birth/ (Page last reviewed: 06/03/2018 Next review due: 06/06/2021)