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Pregnant woman in a birthing pool holds her partner's hands

Birth choices: Where can I give birth

Each of us have grown up with different cultures and ideas that may influence us on where we would like to give birth. For example, in the Netherlands, 16.3% of births occur at home but elsewhere in Europe it can be less than 1%.

Having information about all of the different birthing options available to you is important to help you to make the right decision about where you would like to birth.

Where can you give birth?

Let’s look at some of the places where you can give birth. Some of these options might not be available in the country you live in, or there may be other options, so check out what is available in your area. In the comments section below, feel free to share any other birthing locations you have heard of.

Hospital Birthing centres run by midwives, attached to a maternity hospital

Hospital birthing centres are staffed by midwives and are attached to a maternity hospital or unit. It is a choice that is suitable for normal-risk women. Normal risk means you are healthy and well and have no health or medical complications, or had no serious complications in previous pregnancies or births.

Most of these centres are designed to look and feel like a home environment. Usually, before you arrive you will have met the midwife who will be looking after you. During your birth, if help is needed from an obstetrician (a doctor specialising in childbirth) you will be transferred to the attached or nearby maternity hospital.

Women who choose to give birth in a birthing centre run by midwives or at home, are more likely to have a normal vaginal birth. Hospital birthing centres have been shown to have a high level of satisfaction rates among women and lower rates of medical intervention without additional risks to you or your baby. Over one in four women were transferred from these settings to a maternity hospital (Rowe et al., 2012).

Birthing centre run by midwives, separate to a maternity hospital (free-standing)

This is a centre that is staffed by midwives but not located beside a maternity hospital (also known as a free-standing unit). It is a choice that is suitable for normal-risk women. These are very homely, in comparison to a hospital setting. Before you arrive, you will have met the midwife that will be looking after you in birth. In this setting, over one in five birthing mothers have to be transferred to a maternity hospital (Rowe et al., 2012).

Your home

Home births are an option for healthy women with normal-risk pregnancies. Women who choose this option like to be in the surrounds of their home, to have a familiar environment, and to have their birthing partner(s) supporting them. Your midwife will be present and another midwife may be called when birth is close.

There will be minimal interruptions during a home birth and one-on-one care with you and your midwife will be maximised. Midwives bring some types of pain relief with them and other medications to help mother and baby during birth. Continuous care with your midwife is far more likely with home birthing.

Maternity hospital

Maternity hospitals are the main choice for women who have a high-risk medical history or pregnancy. Midwives, obstetricians, paediatricians, anaesthetists and other maternity care specialists are based in these units. Generally, it may be a different midwife or obstetrician that attends to you at every visit or you may have the option to be attended by a midwife that you know.

In a maternity hospital the way you would like to give birth should be supported, whether you are normal or high-risk. You will have choices and can exercise control over your birth, and you should discuss these with your maternity care provider.

Snoezelen Rooms (a controlled sensory room)

These are multisensory rooms that use lighting, music, colours and scent to soothe you and ensure a relaxing environment. These rooms reduce anxieties, promote control and maintain focus. They have been proven to decrease your pain intensity and reduce the length of labour (Hodnett et al., 2012).

Think of these questions when you are choosing where to give birth:

  • Are you healthy and well?
  • Do you have a medical issue that means that your and/or your baby’s health will need to be monitored by a team rather than one person?
  • What birthing options are near to your home?
  • What are your personal preferences? How would you feel giving birth at home or in a hospital?
  • Is it your first baby? (If planning a home birth, be aware that 45% of UK first-time mothers were transferred to a hospital during labour or immediately after birth and on subsequent babies the transfer rate is 12%.)

Wherever you choose to birth, you should feel secure and reassured that it is the right choice for you. It is okay to change your mind, about where you want to birth, during your pregnancy.

In the comments section below, share any other birthing locations you have heard of.

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This article is from the free online course:

Journey to birth

Trinity College Dublin