How do I arrange a home birth?

This article looks at how to arrange a home birth through NHS midwives, your GP or with an independent midwife. They can also help you plan if you are giving birth at home.

You can book a home birth through your local midwives or your family doctor or privately through an independent midwife.

Booking through your GP

Many women book home births through their GP surgery with no problems, but some family doctors try to dissuade their patients. This may be because of their personal views about risk in childbirth, or because they mistakenly believe that they have to attend the home birth themselves. You might also find our articles on safety and FAQs on having your baby at home useful in talking through your decision with your GP and/or family or friends who might feel uncertain about your decision.

Booking through your midwife

You can also book your home birth and antenatal care directly via a midwife; and there are a number of ways you can contact a midwife directly. You can ask in your GP’s surgery if a midwife works from the surgery. If she does, then you can ask to see her directly. If a midwife does not work from the surgery then the staff may know where a midwife does work and be able to refer you. Alternatively, if you have a health centre or children’s centre near you then you can ask if a midwife works from there.

You can also write to the Head of Midwifery at your local hospital and ask to be put in touch with a midwife. When you have your first antenatal check with your midwife she should discuss your preferences for care during pregnancy as well as where you might choose to have you baby.

If you would like some guidance on talking to your family doctor or midwife to help gain their support for your decision, you can contact NCT on 0300 330 0700.

Going private

Independent midwives offer a private alternative for those who can afford their fees. They are fully qualified midwives who specialise in home births, and many women have found their support invaluable. They will accompany you to an NHS hospital if you need to transfer. 

Your decision

In deciding where to have your baby, you may find the results of the Birthplace Study 2011 from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) useful. (The results are specific to England). The study compares planning to use a ‘midwifery unit’ or birth centre with planning a hospital birth. It also compares planning to have a home birth with planning for a hospital birth.

The main focus of the study is outcomes for women who are ‘low risk’, i.e. those who are healthy, with a straightforward pregnancy, no previous obstetric complications that might affect this pregnancy. The study finds that there are positive reasons for considering planning to use a birth centre or to plan to have your baby at home.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)updated in December 2014, also supports your right to be informed about your options and choose where you have your baby - be that in a midwife-led centre, at home or on a hospital labour ward. The NICE guidance advises that planning to give birth at home or in a midwifery?led unit is particularly suitable for women with straightforward pregnancies who have already had a baby. For women with straightforward pregnancies who are expecting their first baby, it is advised that planning to give birth in a midwifery?led unit is particularly suitable, but that there is a small increase in risk for the baby if they plan birth at home.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about labour and life with a new baby. We also run local NCT home birth support groups: call 0300 330 0770 or email enquiries@nct.org.uk to find one near you.

The Home Birth Reference Site provides information and opinions about having your baby at home, for parents who think that it might be the right choice for them, and for health professionals looking for resources. 

Which? and Birth ChoiceUK have developed a tool to help you find out what your choices are for giving birth in your area. This tool combines your preferences with research evidence to show the local options most suited to you.