The choices that you have about where to give birth will depend on where you live and whether you have any health problems. Possible places include:
- in hospital
- in a midwife-led birth unit or centre
- at home.
Your midwife will explain the different options and the pros and cons of each so you can decide.
As well as your midwife or doctor, talk to your family, friends and the person running your antenatal classes. They can help give you an idea of what it’s like to give birth in different places.
Talk to your midwife about visiting the labour ward or birth centre – a visit will help you with your decision. Some places run regular tours, and others are happy for you to visit at any time as long as you let them know.
Even if you decide early on in your pregnancy where you would like to have your baby, you can always change your mind later.
Having your baby in hospital
If you give birth in a hospital, midwives and doctors will look after you. If you are thinking about using an epidural for pain relief in labour, this can only be given in hospital. Talk to your midwife about pain relief during your antenatal appointments.
If either you or your baby has problems during pregnancy, or you have existing issues that make your pregnancy more complicated, you may be advised to give birth in hospital in case you need extra help.
You will also probably be advised to give birth in hospital if you are having twins or more, or if the baby is in a position that might make the birth more difficult.
If you go into labour early, you will be admitted to hospital so you and your baby can be given any specialist care you need.
Having your baby in a midwife-led birth centre
The midwifery-led unit follows the same philosophy of care as a home birth – normalising birth rather than thinking of it as a clinical event. The units can be alongside a hospital birth centre (sometimes referred to as ‘home from home’) or be in the community (‘freestanding’ or ‘stand alone’).
If you have a normal pregnancy and don’t have any problems during labour you can have all your care at your chosen birth centre. If any problems develop, you can be moved quickly to hospital.
If your pregnancy is low risk but you haven’t given birth before, you may be encouraged to think about going to a birth centre rather than having a home birth as there’s a small increase in the risk of medical problems in your baby if it’s your first baby.
If you have your baby in a birth centre, you are less likely to have an intervention during labour, such as forceps or ventouse, than women who have their babies in hospital.
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.
Having your baby at home can help you relax and cope better because you’ll be in a familiar place where you feel safe. It can also make intervention in labour, such as forceps or ventouse, less likely. If you have other children it might also be more convenient to stay at home.
If you or your baby develop any problems during labour or birth you may need to be moved to hospital.
If you have already had a normal pregnancy and baby, and this pregnancy is considered low-risk, giving birth at home has been shown to be just as safe as birth in an obstetric hospital unit. The rate of interventions (such as forceps or caesarean section) is lower and the result for the baby is the same as if you had been in an obstetric unit.
If this is your first baby even if you are low risk you may prefer to give birth in a midwifery-led unit instead of home. This is because although the rate of interventions (such as forceps or caesarean section) is lower in a midwifery-led unit there is a small increase in risk of medical problems for the baby (9 per 1,000 births compared to 5 per 1,000 in a midwifery unit) and you are more likely to be transferred to hospital during labour.
Manage your anxieties about giving birth, with some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The latent phase of labour… so what does this mean? Am I in labour or not?!
As well as your bags for the hospital, you need to have a few things at home for when your baby arrives.
At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.
Only a very small number of babies actually arrive on their due date and the membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour.
The moment has arrived. Your contractions are regular and building up, and your baby is really on his or her way…
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) ‘Intrapartum care: Care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth’, NICE Clinical Guideline 190, Section 1.1: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/chapter/1-recommendations#place-of-birth [accessed 10 February 2015].
- ‘Where can I give birth?’, NHS Choices:http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/916.aspx?CategoryID=54&SubCategoryID=135 [accessed 10 February 2015] (last reviewed: 21 May 2013; next review due: 20 May 2015).
- ‘Where to give birth: the options’, NHS Choices:http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/where-can-i-give-birth.aspx#close [accessed 10 February 2015] (last reviewed: 3 February 2015; next review due: 3 February 2017).
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) ‘Intrapartum care: Care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth’, NICE Clinical Guideline 190, Section 1.1.2: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/chapter/1-recommendations#place-of-birth [accessed 10 February 2015].
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014) ‘Intrapartum care: Care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth’,
- NICE Clinical Guideline 190, Section 1.1.2:http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/chapter/1-recommendations#place-of-birth [accessed 10 February 2015].
- ‘New advice encourages more home births’, NHS Choices news report, 13 May 2014: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/05May/Pages/New-advice-encourages-more-home-births.aspx [accessed 10 February 2015].
- NIHR (2011) Birthplace programme overview: background, component studies and summary of findings.http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/84945/FR1-08-1604-140.pdf
ℹLast reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.