welcome to the world:
how to choose where to have your baby

As your pregnancy progresses, it's natural to start thinking more about the exciting day when you finally get to meet your little one. Not only is there a choice of how to have your baby – if your pregnancy is going well, you get to choose where to give birth. You may like the idea of cuddling up with your newborn in your own bed, or prefer to be looked after in the local hospital. The middle ground of a midwifery unit or birth centre might be the one for you. Your midwife will discuss the options in detail with you and your birth partner. In the meantime, here’s our guide to the main birth options.

1. a home birth

If your pregnancy is straightforward, you may choose a home birth attended by the community midwives. Your midwife will help you plan everything in advance – and what you’ve seen in the films are right, you will need plenty of towels and water!

pros of a home birth:

  • you may feel more relaxed in the familiar environment
  • you can stay with your family and your birth partner
  • you won’t have to make that journey to hospital when labour starts
  • you’ll be attended by a community midwife, and you might have even met before
  • interventions such as forceps or ventouse are less common
  • you are more in control of your labour – whether you want to hire a birth pool, or simply play a relaxing CD, you can make these choices

cons of a home birth:

  • if you're a first-time mum, a hospital birth is usually considered the best and safest option. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, so discuss this with your midwife when you’re planning your birth
  • if things don't quite go to plan, you’ll be transferred mid-labour to hospital pain relief is limited
  • if there are no community midwives available at the time, it may need to be a hospital delivery

2. a hospital birth

Most of us arrive in the world in our local hospital! Many first-time mums choose this safe and reassuring option. You’ll be looked after by midwives, with support from other medical staff if needed. Every hospital is different, so book a visit in advance to find out what facilities there are.

pros of a hospital birth:

  • you may feel more relaxed in the familiar environment
  • there is a team of specialists on hand if there are any complications
  • the midwife will be able to arrange an epidural if you choose more pain relief
  • many mums simply feel safer in the hospital environment
  • if your baby needs extra care, they can go straight to the neonatal unit
  • afterwards, you and your new little one will be monitored and well looked after

cons of a home birth

  • it can feel a bit impersonal and clinical
  • your birth partner won’t be able to stay with you after delivery, and partners are sent home at bedtime
  • it can be harder to relax with your baby after the birth – a neonatal ward can be a busy and noisy place
  • you may not have met your midwife before

3. a midwifery unit or birth centre

Designed to be cosier and more informal than a hospital, midwifery units and birth centres are a popular compromise. They may be attached to hospitals or stand-alone units –and it’s worth checking this out, as the level of medical intervention will vary.

pros of a midwifery unit or birth centre

  • it's more intimate and relaxed than a hospital
  • you are more likely to already know your midwife
  • interventions such as forceps or ventouse are less common than in a hospital
  • it's a more informal environment for your birth partner, friends, and family
  • the unit may offer additional aids to your labour such as aromatherapy, massage, birth balls or seats, or a birth pool

cons of a midwifery unit or birth centre

  • if there are any difficulties, you may need an ambulance transfer to hospital, mid-labour
  • pain relief is likely to be limited. If you suddenly decide that an epidural does sound like a good plan, it may not be possible

Your midwife will discuss these options with you in detail, and you can arrange visits to the hospital and birth units. It’s important that you feel as safe and comfortable as possible. When you hold your baby for the first time, your surroundings will never have seemed less important – however for your labour, feeling that you’re in the right environment can really help.