Where can I give birth?

You can choose to give birth:

  • in a hospital
  • in a unit run by midwives
  • at home

You can discuss the options available in your area with your midwife. See the pregnancy and baby guide for advice about choosing where to give birth.

Giving birth in hospital

Most women give birth in an NHS hospital maternity unit. If you give birth in hospital, you’ll be looked after by a midwife, but doctors are available if you need them. 

Advantages of giving birth in hospital include:

  • you have access to healthcare professionals including specialists in pregnancy and birth, anaesthetists and specialists in newborn care
  • you can get other specialist services, such as epidurals for pain relief
  • there will be a special care baby unit in case there are any problems

Other things to consider include:

  • you may not be cared for by the same midwife who looked after you during pregnancy
  • you may go home directly from the labour ward or be moved to a postnatal ward

Giving birth in a midwifery unit or birth centre

Run by midwives, these are more comfortable and home-like than hospital wards. They can be part of a general hospital maternity unit, in a smaller community hospital or completely separate from hospital.

Advantages of giving birth in a midwifery unit or birth centre include:

  • your surroundings can make you feel more relaxed and able to cope with your labour
  • you’re more likely to be looked after by the midwife you got to know during pregnancy

Other things to consider include:

  • you may be transferred to a hospital if something goes wrong
  • if the unit isn’t part of a hospital, you won’t be able to have some kinds of pain relief, such as an epidural
  • your doctor or midwife may feel it’s safer for you to give birth in hospital

Giving birth at home

In England, about one baby in 50 is born at home. If you choose to give birth at home, a midwife will support you through your labour.

Advantages of giving birth at home include:

  • you’ll be in familiar surroundings, and you may feel more relaxed and able to cope with your labour
  • you don't have to interrupt your labour to go into hospital
  • if you have other children, you won’t have to leave them
  • you won’t have to be separated from your partner after the birth
  • you’re more likely to be looked after by the midwife you got to know during pregnancy

Other things to consider include:

  • you may be transferred to hospital if something goes wrong
  • you won’t be able to have an epidural at home
  • your doctor or midwife may recommend that you give birth in hospital, for example if you’re expecting twins or if your baby is breech  

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

 

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.

Media last reviewed: 30/09/2014

Next review due: 30/09/2016

Page last reviewed: 21/05/2013

Next review due: 20/05/2015