Choosing where to give birth

How to book your NHS maternity care

4 min read

It’s important to book in with the NHS when you find out you’re pregnant. Find out how to schedule a booking appointment so you can receive free maternity care during your pregnancy.

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Finding out you’re pregnant is both exciting and scary, and it can be tricky to know what to do next. As a first step, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a midwife as soon as possible, so you can be seen before the end of your first trimester and have your first scan at the right time.

Your booking appointment

The first appointment you have with a midwife is called a booking appointment. This should happen when you’re about 10 to 12 weeks pregnant, as it gets you booked in for maternity care provided by a particular hospital or NHS Trust.

At the booking appointment, your midwife will want to get an overview of your health and medical history in order to plan your maternity care, and you’ll have a first discussion about where you’d like to give birth: at home, at a birth centre or in a labour ward.

Don’t worry if it sounds daunting to think about where to give birth so early on in your pregnancy. You can still change your mind later on if you decide that you would like to have your baby somewhere else that better suits your needs and preferences.

In this video Cathy Warwick, former chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, explains that you can change where you’d like to give birth:

If you don’t yet know where you would like to have your baby, use our unique Birth Choice tool to explore the local facilities most suited to you, or read on to find out more about booking maternity care.

Book through your chosen maternity unit or birth centre

  • Use our search to look up your chosen maternity unit and view the information on ‘How to book once you’re pregnant’. This will show you the phone number to call and information on other ways to book, such as online. Some birth centres will only provide care for women once they’re further on in their pregnancy, so you might need to book your maternity care through the hospital initially.
  • If you want to book in for a home birth, it should be possible to arrange this through your local maternity unit by phone or online. In some cases, you can book through the community midwives directly. Find your local unit using our search and look for the ‘Arranging a home birth’ information.

Book maternity care through your GP

  • Contact your GP surgery and they’ll be able to tell you if they have a midwife based there with whom you can discuss your options and arrange antenatal care. You don’t have to see your GP unless you want to.

Book at your local Children’s Centre

  • Contact your local Children’s Centre (England only) and ask to speak to a midwife to find out if you can arrange care through them. Be aware that midwives may only be available at certain times at Children’s Centres.

Booking non-NHS care

Having problems booking the maternity care you want?

  • Contact your local Professional Midwifery Advocate (PMA) through the hospital switchboard phone number. They should be able to help you access the care you want.
  • If you’re still having problems, contact the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS) for support and information about your choices and rights. You can also check out your rights to choose where to have your baby on the Birthrights charity website.

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