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Choosing where to give birth

Choosing where to give birth is an important decision.

In some cases, you may be advised to give birth in a hospital where healthcare specialists are available. This may be because you have medical conditions, you've had problems with a previous pregnancy or birth, or if you are expecting more than one baby.

Talk to your midwife about the type of birth you would like, they can advise you on the most appropriate options for you.

Hospital birth

If you decide to give birth in a hospital, you'll be looked after on the labour ward by midwives.

You will have access to obstetricians if your labour becomes complicated, anaesthetists if you need an epidural or general anaesthetic, and a special care baby unit if there are any problems with your baby.

Each hospital will vary in terms of the facilities they offer – find out if tours of the maternity unit are being offered.

Remember, your midwife is there to help you decide where to give birth, so try not to get anxious about making this decision.

Birth centre

Birth centres are run by midwives and aim to offer a more comfortable, homely environment.

They are also called midwife-led units, midwifery units, or birthing units. The focus is on birth without medical intervention.

Birth centres may be part of a hospital birth unit, or completely separate. Separate units do not have access to certain types of pain relief, such as an epidural.

Home birth

In England, around 1 in every 50 babies is born at home. If you give birth at home, you'll be supported by a midwife who will be with you while you're in labour.

If you need help or your labour is not progressing as well as it should, your midwife will make arrangements for you to be transferred to hospital.

Have a look at this video on giving birth at home or a birth centre - where a midwife explains what both options are like, and a mum describes her experience of giving birth at home.

Plan your route

This sounds obvious, but have you planned how to get to the hospital or birth centre when you go into labour? Who will take you there? Have local taxi numbers ready if you don’t have access to a car. If you need to take public transport, have the timetable ready.

If you have a birth partner, make sure they know the best route to the hospital or birth centre.

Check how long the journey will take, and bear in mind the traffic at different times of the day. If you're going by car, avoid roads with speed bumps or train tracks if possible. Familiarise yourselves with the car park, download the parking app, or have some loose change in the car.

Keep a pillow and blanket in the car to keep you as comfortable as possible. And if it helps, have some relaxing music ready to play.

Further information

For more advice on choosing where to give birth, have a look at Where to give birth on the NHS website.

Birthrights has information about your rights during pregnancy and birth.

To find out how your local hospitals are rated, go to Find maternity services on the NHS website. Just enter your postcode or town to see what patients think of them.

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