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Find out about your options for where to give birth: at home, in hospital or at a midwife-led (midwifery) unit. Learn more about which pain relief methods will be available.
You can give birth at home, in a unit run by midwives (a midwifery unit or birth centre) or in hospital.
Your options about where to have your baby will depend on your needs, risks and, to some extent, on where you live.
If you're healthy and have no complications (low risk) you could consider any of these birth locations. If you have a medical condition, it's safest to give birth in hospital, where specialists are available. This is in case you need treatment during labour.
If you give birth at home or in a unit run by midwives, you’re less likely to need assistance such as forceps or ventouse (sometimes called instrumental delivery).
Wherever you choose, the place should feel right for you. You can change your mind at any point in your pregnancy.
Your midwife will discuss the options available in your area but, if you're willing to travel, you're free to choose any maternity services.
As well as from your midwife, you can get information from:
You may also want to get advice from your friends and family.
Talk to your midwife about going to have a look around the local maternity services, and ask questions if you do not understand something or think you need to know more.
If you have a straightforward pregnancy, and both you and the baby are well, you might choose to give birth at home.
Giving birth is generally safe wherever you choose to have your baby.
But if you’re having your first baby, home birth slightly increases the risk of serious problems for the baby – including death or issues that might affect the baby's quality of life – from 5 in 1,000 for a hospital birth to 9 in 1,000 for a home birth.
If you’re having your second baby, a planned home birth is as safe as having your baby in hospital or a midwife-led unit.
It's rare but, if something goes seriously wrong during your labour at home, it could be worse for you or your baby than if you were in hospital with access to specialised care.
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 any help or your labour is not progressing as well as it should, your midwife will make arrangements for you to go to hospital.
The advantages of giving birth at home include:
There are some things you should think about if you're considering a home birth.
You may need to transfer to a hospital if there are complications.
Epidurals are not available at home, but you can use gas and air, a warm bath, a birth pool, TENS and any relaxation techniques you've learned. Find out about pain relief in labour.
Your doctor or midwife may recommend you give birth in hospital – for example, if you're expecting twins or if your baby is lying feet first (breech). Your midwife or doctor will explain why they think a hospital birth is safer for you and your baby.
If you choose to give birth at home or in a unit run by midwives, you should be given information by your midwife or GP about what would happen if you had to be transferred to hospital during labour and how long this would take.
Ask your midwife whether a home birth is suitable for you and your baby.
If it is, your midwife will arrange for members of the midwifery team to help and support you. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
Midwifery units or birth centres are more comfortable and homely than a maternity unit in a hospital. They can be:
The advantages of giving birth at a midwifery unit include:
There are some things to think about if you're considering giving birth in a midwifery unit or birth centre.
You may need to be transferred to a hospital if there are any complications.
In a unit that's completely separate from a hospital, you won't be able to have certain kinds of pain relief, such as an epidural. Ask your midwife whether the unit or centre is part of a hospital or completely separate.
Your doctor or midwife may feel it's safer for you to give birth in hospital
Ask your midwife if there are any midwifery units or birth centres in your area. There may be others you can use if you're prepared to travel.
Most births happen in an NHS hospital maternity unit. If you choose to give birth in hospital, you'll be looked after by midwives, but doctors will be available if you need their help.
You'll still have choices about the kind of care you want. Your midwives and doctors will provide information about what your hospital can offer.
The advantages of giving birth in hospital include:
There are some things you should think about if you're considering a hospital birth:
Your midwife can help you decide which hospital feels right for you. If there's more than one hospital in your area, you can choose which one to go to. Find out more about the care provided in each so you can decide which will suit you best.
Here are some questions you might want to ask if you're considering having your baby in a midwifery unit or birth centre, or in hospital:
Wherever you decide to give birth, you can change your mind at any stage of pregnancy. Talk to your midwife if there's anything you're not sure or want to know more about.
For more information visit birthrights.
You can choose to have a home birth without a midwife with you (unassisted birth). This is sometimes called freebirth.
Talk to a midwife if you are worried about your care.
If you decide to have an unassisted birth, you can change your mind at any time during your pregnancy or labour. NHS midwives will always be available to support you.
A midwife can offer you support and advice during labour, and check on the health of you and your baby. They'll know if you or your baby need help, and can arrange for medical attention if needed.
If you have an unassisted birth, you’ll need to tell a GP or local maternity services about your baby’s birth as soon as they’ve been born. This is because by law every birth in the UK needs to be recorded (notified) within 36 hours. A GP or midwife will need to see you before they can notify the birth.
When the birth has been notified, your baby will get an NHS number for their NHS care.
It's important to continue taking any medication prescribed unless your GP/specialist specifically tells you to stop. Please visit our Existing Health Conditions page for more information, or visit 'Bumps' ('Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy').
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