Choosing Where to Give Birth

pregnant woman bump sat on sofa

There are typically three popular birth settings when it comes to choosing where to deliver your baby; in your own home, in the hospital or in a midwife-run birthing unit.

Within a few weeks of discovering you are pregnant, it’s worth looking at your nearest birthing options, and weighing up your options. You’ll likely be asked, when you inform your GP of your pregnancy, which hospital or unit you’d like all your booking appointment, tests and scans done, alongside your midwife appointments which can be there, or at your GP's surgery.

Don’t feel panicked if what's most convenient for these appointments isn't where you want to give birth - you can change your mind later and go for a home birth or different unit/hospital - though it is easier having everything in one place if you have the option to. You never know, you might just have to go to whatever is closest when the time comes! The NHS website has a postcode checker online to find your nearest services too.

Personal Experiences and Stats

Do you know anyone who’s given birth recently? You can ask family and friends about their experiences with different hospitals/units or what it was like giving birth at home to get some first-hand recommendations. It’s also a good idea to head to Facebook and look up the hospitals/units you’re looking at and search for groups that have ‘voices’ or ‘midwife’ or ‘maternity’ in the name. Within these, you can usually find infographics on their annual birth stats - how many used a pool, mode of delivery, busiest days, recovery rate, stillbirth rates, percentage of breastfeeding initiation and rate of 1-2-1 care - all useful information to consider for choosing your desired hospital or unit. You can also find information on Which?'s website where they have a handy comparison tool for you to use.

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Things to Consider

Obviously choosing the nearest has the best advantage of being able to get there quickly but depending on the type of birth you want (See our Tips on Choosing a Birthing Plan), your nearest maternity services may not be equipped with the resources or facilities you need/want. You’ll also want to look at visiting policies. Some services will only allow one birth partner, some don’t allow visitors once you’ve given birth, and some will let you have whoever you want, where you want.

Consider how you’d like to feed your child too. Looking at the breastfeeding initiation rate will give you a good idea of what support will be available for either method of feeding.

Things to Ask

Here are some good questions to ask your midwife to get the answers you need:

  • What equipment is available?
  • Can I bring belongings from home?
  • Who is allowed to accompany me - can they stay with me throughout my time there?
  • Can I move around during labour?
  • What are my options for pain relief? Can I have an epidural if I change my mind?
  • Are there any restrictions on visitors or limited time my partner can stay?
  • When will I be discharged?
  • If my baby needs special care, will they remain in the same hospital as me?
  • Will my baby be always with me?

Once you’ve decided where you want to be cared for, you can book in via your GP or midwife. So long as you have a straightforward ‘low-risk’ pregnancy, you have your choice of where you’d like to go.

If you have any medical requirements (i.e., had problems in previous pregnancies or a health condition that requires a specialist consultant), or you are deemed ‘high-risk’, you may be advised to select somewhere that is equipped with everything you may need, or ensure you are close enough to a hospital should you or your baby need one.

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