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Where to have your baby

Pregnancy is full of choices and one of the biggest decisions is choosing where to have your baby. In making this decision, there are a number of factors to consider including whether it is your first baby; if you are having multiple birth; personal factors such as your general health; how your pregnancy is progressing; if you have had any complications; and if this is not your first child, what your previous experiences of birth were.

Whilst weighing up your options, you may find it helpful to talk to friends, family and acquaintances and find out about their experiences and to discuss the options with your midwife who will be able to give you advice from a medical perspective.

It is important to remember that whatever you decide, your choices will not be set in stone. You are entitled to change your mind along the way or circumstances may change during your pregnancy which means that it may not be possible for your first choice.

Hospital

In the UK it is most common for women to give birth in hospital. In 2005 97% of babies were born in hospital (1). Having your baby in a hospital means that you have instant access to a range of pain relief and medical technology should any complications arise. This can be reassuring, particularly if this is your first baby.

'I had planned to have my baby at my birthing centre but due to a long labour and unforeseen complications I ended up in the delivery suite at my hospital. However this was right for me and the medical support I received was absolutely fantastic'. Jo, Mum to Lily, born April 2006.

Advantages

  • Epidural Pain relief is readily available if you choose it
  • If any problems do arise, you will not have to move as medical care is on hand.

    Disadvantages

  • Your surroundings will be unfamiliar which may mean that you are less relaxed
  • You may be cared for by many different midwives and doctors
  • You may be at risk of a hospital acquired infection
  • You are at higher risk of caesarean section just by being there
  • You are at risk of unnecessary intervention for you and your baby

    Home birth

    In 2005 nearly 2% of births in the UK happened at home (2). This is an option if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and are healthy. When having a home birth you are usually supported by two midwives if you are using the NHS. You will be monitored closely throughout your pregnancy to make sure that your birth will be risk free.

    Studies show that home births are safe for the majority of women who have had low risk pregnancies.

    Advantages

  • The familiar surroundings can be emotionally positive
  • You may feel more in control of the situation and able to make your own decisions.
  • Less medical intervention is involved
  • You will have a midwife looking after only you at all times and is therefore able to pick up on small problems and correct them before they escalate.
  • You are not at risk of contracting hospital acquired infections
  • There is usually plenty of time to transfer to hospital should it become necessary

    Disadvantages

  • Should any complications arise during your pregnancy you will have to have your birth at a hospital instead
  • If you have any complications during labour, you will have to be transferred to a hospital.
  • You will not be able to receive an epidural.

    Water Birth

    A water birth refers to spending part or all of your labour and birth in water. A water birth is possible at home or in certain hospitals or midwife led maternity units. The warm water can help you to relax and can have a number of benefits.

    "Giving birth at home in water was among the best decisions I ever made. The water enhanced my mobility and shortened my labour, and getting out of the pool and into my own bed was the most wonderful way to welcome my new baby." Amy, Mum to Jeremy, born at home in water, May 2005.

    Advantages

  • Water can help your muscles to relax which can help speed up labour
  • You may need less or no pain relief
  • If at home, you will be in familiar comfortable surroundings
  • There is less chance that you will tear or cut reducing the likelihood of stitches

    Disadvantages

  • You will not be able to receive an epidural
  • You may need to leave the pool, if for example complications arise
  • If you are opting for a water birth at your hospital it may be that the pool is in use at the time that you require it and so will not be able to use it

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    (1) Office for National Statistics; Birth Statistics 2005 series FM1 No 34 Office for National Statistics

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