Compare your maternity options

In the UK, you can generally choose to give birth in a labour ward, birth centre or at home. Explore the differences between the options for where to give birth.

Labour wardBirth centreHome birth
What is it?
Who will care for me?
What pain relief is available?
Can I have a water birth?
What if I need medical help?
How safe is it for babies of healthy, low risk women?
Labourward thumbnail Labour wardBirthcentre thumbnail Birth centreHomebirth thumbnail Home birth
What is it?In the maternity unit of a hospital, with medical facilities and doctors on hand if you need them.A more homely environment led by midwives, where the focus is on birth without medical intervention.Two midwives come to your home to support you during labour and as you give birth.
Who will care for me?You’ll be looked after by midwives, and doctors will be there if you need them.Midwives will care for youMidwives will care for you
What pain relief is available?
  • Epidural
  • Gas and air
  • Natural methods such as massage
  • Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drugs
  • Tens Machine
  • Gas and air
  • Natural methods such as massage
  • Pethidine, diamorphine or other opioid drugs are sometimes available
  • Tens Machine
  • Gas and air
  • Tens Machine
  • Natural methods such as massage
Can I have a water birth?Birth pools might be available - search for your unit to find outBirth pools are usually available – look up a unit to see how many it hasYou can hire or buy a birth pool to use
What if I need medical help?Doctors and neonatal specialists are available, and you can have a caesarean if you need one.From a freestanding birth centre you’ll be taken to hospital in an ambulance. If you're in an alongside birth centre, you'll be moved within the hospital.You'll be taken to hospital in an ambulance and your midwife will come with you.
How safe is it for babies of healthy, low risk women?As safe as planning birth in a birth centreAs safe as planning birth in a labour ward

As safe as planning birth in a labour ward or a birth centre for those who have given birth before.

For first-time mums, there’s a small increase in risk to the baby.

Find out more about having a baby in a labour wardFind out more about having a baby in a birth centre.Find out more about having a home birth