Birth environments

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Labour ward

The maternity unit in a larger hospital with medical facilities.

Philosophy of care

Midwife-led care is available, but medical facilities are on hand in case you need them

Who can give birth here?

All women whatever your risk of complications

Number of women giving birth

Typically between 5 - 20 a day depending on the size of the unit

How safe is it for the babies of women at low risk of complications?

As safe as planning birth in a birth centre

Who will help me give birth?

Midwife

Doctor (if needed)

What type of birth can I have?
  • Birth without medical interventions
  • Induction of labour
  • Instrumental (forceps or ventouse)
  • Caesarean
  • Water birth
What pain relief can I have?
  • Gas and air
  • Natural methods such as massage, hypnosis for birth, upright positions
  • TENS Machine (may need to hire your own)
  • Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drug
  • Birth pool (check availability)
  • Epidural
What if I need medical help?

You're already in the maternity unit where you can receive medical help

Reasons to consider
  • You have a medical condition which means that the birth may be complicated
  • You know that your baby may need special care immediately after the birth
  • You're fairly sure that you'll want an epidural for pain relief
  • There's no birth centre in your area and you don’t want a home birth
  • You would rather not plan a birth where you would need to transfer in labour in case of complications

Use our Birth Choice tool to find out what would be the best choice for you.

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Birth centre

A smaller place for you to give birth, where the emphasis is on natural birth, without medical intervention.

Philosophy of care

A relaxed and friendly 'home-from-home' where women expecting to have a normal birth receive personalised care

Who can give birth here?

Healthy women at low risk of complications

Some can also offer care to women at increased risk of complications

Number of women giving birth

Typically between 1 - 5 a day depending on the size of the unit

How safe is it for the babies of women at low risk of complications?

As safe as planning birth in a labour ward

Who will help me give birth?

Midwife

What type of birth can I have?

Only a birth without medical interventions

What pain relief can I have?
  • Gas and air
  • Natural methods such as massage, hypnosis for birth, upright positions
  • TENS Machine (you may need to hire your own)
  • Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drug (check this is available)
  • Birth pool (check availability)
What if I need medical help?

From an alongside birth centre, you can be transferred to a nearby labour ward on the same hospital site

From a freestanding birth centre, you can be transferred to a nearby hospital, which will require a journey by road

Reasons to consider
  • You want to give birth in a homely environment
  • You feel that with the right support you could have a natural birth
  • You want to be able to use water in labour, such as having a water birth (check there is a birth pool)
  • You would prefer to avoid having medical interventions
  • You would like to have the chance to get to know your midwives before the birth
  • You live in a rural area a long way from the nearest labour ward (consider a freestanding birth centre)
  • You want to give yourself the best chance to have a natural birth but want to leave your options for pain relief open (consider an alongside birthing centre)

Use our Birth Choice tool to find out what would be the best choice for you.

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Home birth

A midwife comes to your home to support you in labour and as you give birth.

Philosophy of care

Confidence in your ability to give birth in a relaxed and familiar setting

Who can give birth here?

Healthy women at low risk of complications

Some women at increased risk of complications choose to give birth at home, but they need to think carefully about safety

Number of women giving birth

Just you!

How safe is it for the babies of women at low risk of complications?

For second-time+ mums, it's as safe as planning birth in a labour ward or a birth centre

For first-time mums, it's slightly less safe than planning birth in a labour ward or a birth centre

Find out more about safety regarding a home birth

Who will help me give birth?

Midwife

What type of birth can I have?

Only a birth without medical interventions

What pain relief can I have?
  • Gas and air
  • Natural methods such as massage, hypnosis for birth, upright positions
  • TENS Machine (you'll need to hire your own)
  • Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drug (check this is available)
  • Birth pool (you'll need to provide your own)
What if I need medical help?

You can be transferred to a nearby hospital, which will require a journey by road

Reasons to consider
  • You're at low risk of complications
  • You think of having a baby as a natural process and have confidence in your body’s ability to give birth
  • You would like to labour and give birth in a familiar and private environment
  • You would prefer to avoid having medical interventions
  • You would like to have the chance to get to know your midwives before the birth
  • You and your partner want to start your family life at home together, or have your other children with you for the birth

Use our Birth Choice tool to find out what would be the best choice for you.

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