Choosing where to have your baby
Where you have your baby is your choice, and you should always be supported in this choice.
Giving birth is generally very safe for both you and your baby, wherever you choose to have your baby. Your midwife should explain that you can choose to give birth at home, in a midwife-led unit or in an obstetric unit.
Midwife‑led units (also called birth centres) are more 'home‑like' and relaxed. They can be in or next to a hospital (called 'alongside' units) or in a different place (called 'freestanding' units). Obstetric units (also called labour wards) have more medical facilities.
If you have had a baby before, your midwife should advise you that planning birth at home or in a midwife‑led unit is particularly suitable for you. This is because the evidence shows that:
If you are having your first baby, your midwife should advise you that planning birth in a midwife‑led unit is particularly suitable for you. This is because the evidence shows that:
the chances of your baby having a serious medical problem (which are very low) are not affected compared with planning birth in an obstetric unit, but there is a small increase in the chance of a serious problem for your baby if you plan to give birth at home.
NICE has said this based on the best available evidence from a number of studies. This includes a study called Birthplace, which looked at where lots of healthy women in England planned to give birth and what happened when they had their babies. The box below gives more details about what was found in the study.
Not all women are able to give birth where they planned or hoped for. Some women will need to be transferred to an obstetric unit during labour if there are concerns about them or their baby, so that extra care is on hand if needed (see what if I need to be transferred to an obstetric unit during labour?).
Information from the Birthplace study
More information (including tables containing figures from Birthplace and other studies) is available in section 1.1 of the version of the guideline for healthcare professionals.
Note that the information here:
Women who have had a baby before
Women having their first baby
To help you make a decision about where to have your baby, your midwife should give you information about home births and about all birth units in your local area, including:
the likelihood of being cared for in labour by a midwife you already know
the likelihood of being cared for in labour by a midwife who is looking after just you (this doesn't necessarily mean the same midwife throughout the whole of your labour) – this is often called 'one‑to‑one care'
which medical staff will be available
types of pain relief available (epidurals are only available in obstetric units – see epidurals section).
You may be advised to give birth in an obstetric unit if you have certain health conditions. This may also be the case if you have had problems with a previous pregnancy or birth, or if complications develop during your pregnancy. If any of these apply to you, your midwife or doctor will talk with you about your options.
All options should be available to you. Wherever you choose to have your baby, you should be supported in your choice.
Questions you might like to ask about where to have your baby