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Your choices for giving birth

Although most women give birth on a maternity unit in an NHS hospital, this isn’t the only option. There are a variety of places where you may have your baby, depending on what is available in your area.

Where to give birth?

Your midwife will discuss home birth with you and the different birth units available to you during your pregnancy. In some areas there is greater choice due to the availability of birth centres, and in others the choice is between home and hospital birth. Before you make your choice you need information on any advantages and disadvantages that there might be.

Hospital birth (maternity units)

Hospital birth is the most common choice for women, where care is given by doctors and midwives.

If you need extra care in your pregnancy due to complications then the doctor will ensure you have the most appropriate treatment and support. If not, midwife-led care should be available, which means you will be cared for by midwives. Women may choose a hospital birth if they want to have an epidural when in labour, or to have doctors on hand if they need it.

You may want to visit the hospital to have a look around before you go into labour, and your midwife should be able to arrange this for you.

Home birth

Until about 40 years ago most women gave birth to their babies at home, but today only one in 50 women has her baby at home. By the end of 2009 every woman should have the option of a home birth.

Women who choose to have their babies at home report high satisfaction levels through being more in control. If you are having a straightforward pregnancy, and have no other complications, you may want to consider this option.

Birth centres

Birth centres and midwifery-led units are facilities that provide support for normal birth in a home-from-home environment. You may want to choose to have your baby in a birth centre if your pregnancy is straightforward and you have no other complications. Your midwife will advise you on this option if one is available in your area.

Women choosing birth centres are cared for by highly skilled midwives who will transfer you to the hospital if needs be. Birth centres may be attached to the hospital (alongside) or separate and at a distance from the hospital site (freestanding).

Water for labour and birth

The opportunity to labour in water is recommended for pain relief by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. You may want to use water for labour and also to have your baby in the water, and this can be at home, in birth centres or at the hospital. Water birth is recognized and supported (for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies) by both The Royal College of Obstetricians and the Royal College of Midwives, and your midwife will give you local information to help you make your choice.

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