Giving birth at home or at the birth centre 

A midwife explains the alternative options for women who don't want to give birth in hospital, and a mother describes her experience of giving birth at home.

Where to give birth: the options

Transcript of Giving birth at home or at the birth centre

Are you saying Daisy?

I had Daisy just about here, on the carpet, standing up,

and my friend, who's a doula, was there.

I was leaning on her, holding on to her,

hanging off her neck, actually, and just pushing into the ground.

And my partner Joey and son Caleb were watching.

Women choose to give birth

in a midwife-led unit or birth centre or at home

because they have thought about birth very carefully

and they really think that they'd like to try for a normal birth.

I think they understand that midwives are experts in normal birth

and are absolutely passionate about birth.

This is where we actually let you labour.

It's nice and homely and comfortable.

- It's like a sitting room, isn't it? - Yes, it is.

And birthing balls to lean over on.

It's also a very intimate experience

because the women get to know their midwives during their antenatal period

and become very confident

in the support that they're going to get in that environment.

And after I'd had her and held her for a while and got rid of the placenta,

then my husband cut the cord.

The midwives came to check up on us a couple more times in the day,

but that was really quite nice because they felt like family

and they just came in the bedroom and it was a really nice atmosphere.

Some women won't be suitable

or may not want to give birth in a birth centre or at home,

and therefore it's more suitable for them to go to a consultant unit.

These women maybe have a health problem,

for example a heart problem or a kidney problem,

and need expert care in that field,

or maybe during their pregnancy

they might develop something like pre-eclampsia

or the baby may be in the breech position,

so it would be sensible for them to go to a consultant unit.

Tips for having a normal birth are to really get to know your midwife,

talk to her about your options for birth,

find out strategies for coping with normal birth

and having confidence in your body to give birth to your baby.

A really important part of progressing to a normal birth

is to understand the latent phase of labour,

that early part of labour where we really encourage you to stay at home

so that you can walk and take the dog out, for example,

you can sleep, you can eat, you can get in the bath

and feel relaxed in your own surroundings.

It's great to be able to do what you want when you're in labour

and to feel comfortable enough to do it.

Just walking around and going to make some food in the kitchen or...

Just do what you need to do, really.

The pain relief that we have available

to women who might decide to have the baby in a birthing centre or at home

is we use aromatherapy, massage.

A lot of women, if they're going to have their babies at home, will hire a pool.

So this is our birthing pool, probably used by at least 80% of our women.

They absolutely love it.

The water's very, very supportive.

We do have gas and air or Entonox, which is helpful for the last stages.

We do have injections that can help with pain

but we very rarely use them.

So this is the ward. We've got six beds in here.

Yesterday it was much fuller, we had three or four mums in here,

but they've gone home so we've got just the one today.

It's really important that you discuss the options for your birth

and your setting of your birth

with your midwife or your doctor,

because these will make you feel

much more relaxed and confident in that process.

Women make choices for their birth

but sometimes things don't go according to plan.

Maybe, for example, your contractions aren't strong enough to birth this baby

and it's taking a very long time and you're getting really tired.

And maybe one of your choices was not to have an epidural,

but in actual fact you're saying to me that really you're not coping very well

and you'd like to go to the consultant unit for an epidural.

That's absolutely fine, we can change choices.

Or, for example, we may find that the baby's not happy during your labour.

The heartbeat isn't as we want it

and we may suggest to you that we transfer to a consultant unit

so that the baby can have a different kind of monitoring during the labour,

and there would be a paediatrician there ready.

It's important to just see that if you do go into hospital,

it's for the best and it's for a reason

and at the end of the day you've got your baby,

which is the only important thing, really.

The labour and the birth are such a short thing,

it might be a day, a couple of days or a week that you're there,

but in the end you've got your baby and that's the bit that lasts a long time.


It's quite a shock to the body to have the baby,

but then afterwards I was sitting in the pool feeding Daisy

and Caleb was watching over the side and that was really lovely.

I think for a normal, healthy woman

who's had no problems in their pregnancy,

that having a home birth or a birth in a midwife-led unit

is the most empowering, beautiful experience you could possibly have.

I would just recommend to people to give it a go

because at the end of the day if you change your mind

the hospital's still there.


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What your birth partner can do

Practical and emotional ways that your birth partner can help you during labour

Signs that labour has begun

Including contractions, waters breaking, backache and having a "show"

When to go to hospital

When to call the midwife and what to expect, including examinations and what the delivery rooms are like