Birth choices


What are my options for place of birth?

There are usually 3 main options offered by healthcare professionals which include:

  • A Consultant Obstetrician led unit – Labour ward/ Delivery suite
  • A Midwife led unit – birth centre
  • Home Birth

Birth centre:

In some areas of the country a birthing centre is a separate ward or unit within a main hospital but in other areas they are stand alone units. A birthing centre is a low risk maternity unit where you can have your baby and be cared for by midwives.
Giving birth in a birthing centre is much like giving birth at home with regard to pain relief options available. You would for example not be able to have an epidural but could enjoy the benefits of a waterbirth.

Doctors do not work in birthing centres so if your pregnancy is considered potentially high risk you will be advised by your care provider to attend a consultant led hospital unit.  If you are interested in having your baby in a birthing centre, ask your midwife for information on your nearest centre.


Homebirth is a safe, sensible and satisfying choice for many women with an uncomplicated pregnancy. Being at home enables you to stay relaxed, be in control, enjoying your home comforts such as scents, music, lighting and your own bed for when you want to lie down.

There are a number of reasons why it might be safer to be cared for in hospital. These would include:

  • If your baby was premature (before 37 weeks) or extremely overdue the midwives will suggest that it would be safer to have your baby in hospital;
  • If you have bleeding during the labour;
  • If there was meconium in the amniotic water (when your baby has opened its bowels and would need further monitoring);
  • If the labour slowed down significantly;
  • If the midwife was concerned that the labour was becoming abnormal in any way.

Midwives are able to do the same examinations as they would in hospital so they can predict if labour is changing its course. Their priority is always mums and babys health. Please see our video preview
"Preparing for a Homebirth" - Click here.

Consultant-led units:

If your pregnancy has been high risk with complications or you have an underlying medical condition which may impact on your labour/ delivery, then your healthcare provider will recommend being cared for on a Labour ward/ Delivery suite. The benefits of this are:

  • Advanced monitoring systems
  • Consultant ward rounds where the team of doctors will regularly review yours and baby’s well-being and progress
  • Epidural analgesia, which isn’t available on the birth centre or at a homebirth.

When do I need to decide where I want to have my baby?

It is advisable to have discussions with your midwife as early as your 1st booking appointment in order for you to receive as much evidence based advice as possible.

If you have risk factors which may affect your labour and/or birth there is plenty of time for you to have conversations with the relevant professionals to enable you to be supported in your wishes for your birth preferences.

If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, your midwife will discuss place of birth with you between 34- 36 weeks (normally after you have had the opportunity to attend antenatal classes if you wish to) so it is a good idea to prepare a birth preferences list/ birth plan ready for discussion.

Of course, you can change your mind at any point but you would need to give the midwife team notice to prepare equipment for a homebirth.

Are water births safe?

Water births are a safe way to deliver your baby and have been used for many years. Your baby will receive oxygen through the cord for a full 3 minutes after delivery and will not expand his or her lungs until they reach the surface of the water. Mums will be monitored during a water birth just as they would during any other birth. Additionally water has many benefits including the soothing properties of warm water, the privacy afforded to the mum, the relative weightlessness and buoyancy that allows women to change position easily.

Can I book a birthing pool at the hospital?

There is no need to book a birthing pool. The birthing pools are available on a first come, first serve basis. It is unlikely that a birthing pool will be unavailable should you wish to use one. It is however important to mention that you would like to use a pool if possible when you call the labour ward so that the midwives can prepare for your arrival and ensure there is someone qualified available.

I have been told that I can book a private room at hospital. Is this true?

The private rooms on the postnatal/ antenatal ward in most hospitals are primarily for people with a clinical need. Every woman will have a private room when in labour. If there is a private room that is available after you have had your baby, the staff may be able to request it for you for a charge that varies between hospitals but you cannot book a room in advance.