Choosing a place of birth
This is a decision you will make following discussion with your midwife or doctor at around 34 - 36 weeks of pregnancy, but it's helpful to start thinking about your preferences before this time.
Most women have the option of three places to give birth to their baby:
In the comfort of your own home with the support of two midwives and whoever you chose to have with you. You can hire a birthing pool and use techniques such as massage and hypnobirth. Your midwife can provide gas and air (entonox) if you want it.
In a midwifery-led unit/birth centre (MLU)
This is a ward within the hospital, although some MLU’s are ‘freestanding’ and not located near to the hospital. It’s a homely and calm environment that supports normal birth with minimal intervention. Midwives and chosen birth partners are on hand to support you. You will have the choice of a birthing pool, gas and air (entonox), aromatherapy and opiate based painmanagement, depending on your maternity unit of choice.
In a labour ward/obstetric unit
A ward in a hospital where yourcare will be provided by a team of doctors and midwives. Normal birth with minimal intervention is always the goal, if it is safe to do so. Access to more specialised medical facilities and equipment is available for those women who need it.
More information can be found here.
You can change your mind about where to have your baby at any point. If you choose to have your baby at home or in an MLU, some events or complications before or during labour may mean transfer to the labour ward is advised.
Safety is always the priority, so if you have certain needs or complications with your health and/or pregnancy it may mean that giving birth on a labour ward is the safest option. Your midwife or doctor will discuss this with you if it is their recommendation.
If this is your first baby, and your pregnancy is considered ‘low-risk’, it is just as safe to have your baby in a midwifery-led birthing centre as it is to have your baby in a labour ward. Research shows the risk to the baby is slightly increased when planning to give birth at home.
If this is your second or subsequent baby, it is just as safe to have your baby at home as it is to have your baby in a midwifery-led unit or in a labour ward.
Women who give birth at home or in a midwifery-led birthing centre are much less likely to require medical interventions including caesarean birth, assisted birth, blood transfusion and episiotomy.