Giving birth in an NHS hospital is probably the simplest option in terms of planning. The majority of women give birth in their local hospital’s maternity ward.


What to expect: Maternity units can be quite large. While a midwife will be on hand, there will also be doctors available in case of complications, plus an anaesthetist to assist if you need an epidural or an emergency caesarean.

If you have certain medical conditions or have had complications during your pregnancy, you might be advised to give birth in an NHS maternity ward that has backup from doctors as well as access to a paediatrician or special care baby unit. If you’d like to use a birthing pool, this should be available – discuss your wishes with your midwife well in advance of your due date (and see box, top right, for more on water births).

How do I go about it? You'll find a list of your local hospitals with maternity units on the internet. If you live in a city, you may have a choice of two or three, but if you live in a more rural area, your hospitals are likely to be more spread out, limiting your choice.

If you do have choice, make a shortlist of two to three (it's sensible to pick hopsitals that are not too far away) and then try to make a quick visit to each hospital for a lookaround. You're unlikely to be able to visit the maternity unit but can still get a feel for the hospital atmosphere, its size and how easy it is to get there, park nearby and find your way round.

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You can then tell your GP or midwife which hospital you would like to go to.

Good to know… Even if you’ve opted for a home birth, if your labour doesn’t go as planned or you change your mind, you can transfer to a maternity ward.

Advantages of a hospital birth

  • Expert medical staff are on hand in case anything unexpected happens
  • Everything you need is to hand if it's decided you need an emergency caesarean
  • You have the chance to use a wider range of pain relief options, for example, epidural

Disadvantages of a hospital birth

  • Hospitals can seem big and impersonal
  • Because a hospital is a medical environment, giving birth may feel like a medical procedure, rather than a natural one
  • Statistics show you're more likely to have intervention of some sort

“I was so pleased I was in a hospital”

“I'd had a great pregnancy and hoped to have a very straightforward birth. However, after 10 hours in labour, my baby's heartbeat started to fall quite sharply between contractions. The midwife called the consultant who recommended an emergency caesarean. Despite the urgency, it was all done without panic or stress. I was quickly prepared for the op, my husband put on a green gown, and Sophie was born safe and well shortly afterwards. I was so pleased I was in a hospital where a fast decision could be made, with all the experts on hand to make it happen.”

Christie Mayhew, 33, from Northampton, mum to Sophie, 7 weeks

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