What are my choices for where I can give birth?

Where you give birth can be a difficult decision but the main thing to consider is where you feel safer. We are all very different and some women will feel safer in familiar, comfortable surroundings with lots of privacy and home comforts. Others want to know that they are in the hospital should any interventions be needed with the expertise of midwives and obstetricians close at hand.

Neither reasoning is incorrect. If you feel safe, you are more likely to produce the oxytocin that will help your labour to progress. Feeling calm means that you are also more likely to be producing endorphins which are your natural painkillers.

The benefits of home birth are that you have the one-to-one attention of your midwives, there is no risk of hospital acquired infections and if all is straightforward you can be tucked up in your own bed afterwards! You also don’t have to make the, sometimes difficult, decision as to when you should go to the hospital.

If you prefer a hospital birth there are generally two places where your baby can be born. Labour Ward or the Birthing Centre. In some hospitals the Birthing Centre is adjacent to the Labour ward and in others they are in separate areas, sometimes different floors of the hospital. Far less common are stand-alone Birthing Centres which are run by midwives.

The advantages of Birthing Centres are that they are usually quieter, more relaxed and have more options for being comfortable. Birthing pools, beanbags, rocking chairs, mats on the floor. You can dim the lights and play music. Whilst that is also possible on Labour ward it is often less practical. The other great thing about Birthing Centres is that your partner can stay with you until you go home and you can avoid going to the postnatal ward at all. Birthing Centres are staffed by Midwives but if you need an obstetrician, either you will be moved to Labour Ward very quickly or obstetricians will come to you.

If you have any pre-existing medical problems or complications in your pregnancy, then the best place to give birth is Labour Ward. This is because the obstetricians will be able to assess your progress in labour continuously and make the best plan of care for you with the midwives. If you want or need an Epidural then these are only available on Labour Ward.

In some hospitals you will need to be assessed about a month before your baby is due to see if you are suitable for using a Birthing Centre, in others it will be presumed that you will start off on the Birthing Centre if you are low-risk and then move to the Labour Ward only if you have complications or need an Epidural.

You have nothing to lose by starting on the Birthing Centre and potentially can gain the advantage of giving birth in a relaxed environment and having your partner stay with you until you go home. Do remember that women in labour change their minds about many things and that also applies about where you have your baby. You may want to talk things over with your partner, midwife or wait until after doing classes. Don’t worry about pleasing anyone else, what feels right for you will be right for your baby too.

If you live in London you will have a big choice of hospitals and it can be an overwhelming decision. A good website that gives impartial information on the choices in your area is https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/birthing-options/article/where-to-give-birth. It has league tables comparing various statistics which can help you make that choice.

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