Midwife-led units and birth centres

Would a midwife-led unit or birth centre be the right place for you to have your baby? Here’s the lowdown

Are midwife-led units or birth centres the best places to give birth?

As with everything baby-related, it’s a personal choice but if you’re having a straightforward pregnancy, midwife-led units or birthing centres are definitely a strong option. Have a think, do some research and consider them when you’re thinking about where to give birth.

How do I find a suitable midwife-led unit or birth centre near me?

Ask your midwife or GP if there are any midwife-led units or birth centres where you live. You can also browse the Which? Birth Choice regional guide to labour wards and birth centres. Use the comparison tool to help you compare maternity services in your area.

What can I do if there is no midwifery-led unit or birth centre near me?

Most (75%) hospital trusts have midwifery-led units or birth centres. If there isn’t one near you, some (but not all) do accept women from all over the country. Though obviously you need to bear in mind travel time when you’re in labour.

How do I find out which is the best midwife-led unit or birth centre for me?

Some midwife-led units or birth centres offer tours, so if you’re able to, go along and check them out before you give birth.

Use the Which? Birth Choice regional guide to labour wards and birth centres to find out about tours and contact information for booking.

How do I know a midwife-led unit or birth centre is right for me?

Whether you go for a tour or just check out their websites, do some research and look into the following areas:

  • If you fit the criteria for giving birth in that particular midwife-led unit.
  • What happens if you experience complications – e.g. which hospital would you be transferred to, and what happens if you need an episiotomy, ventouse or forceps.
  • How likely it is that you or your baby will need to be transferred to hospital, and for what reasons.
  • If the unit is closed during certain hours and, if so, what plans you need to make.
  • Average length of stay.
  • What equipment is available and what you can bring from home.
  • Birthing pool availability – and if they have them, how many.
  • What you need to pack in your hospital bag.
  • Who can be with you during labour/how many people can be in the room.
  • What care you’ll have throughout labour – e.g. will it be one-to-one with a midwife the same one you had through pregnancy.
  • Pain relief availability.
  • Breastfeeding support, if needed.
  • If there are facilities for your partner or family to stay with you.

How do I book the midwife-led unit or birth centre that I like?

You might be able to book the midwife-led unit or birth centre through your midwife or GP. Or it might be easier to book direct. Visit the Which? Birth Choice regional guide to labour wards and birth centres across the UK to find out more.

It’s also sadly worth remembering that sometimes midwife-led units and birth centres close temporarily because of staffing shortages.

Because of that, you should probably consider investigating your local hospital labour ward – and take a tour if possible – so that it feels familiar there too.

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses, which are a great way to find out more about pregnancy, labour and life with a new baby.

AIMS provides independent support and information about maternity choices.

Better Births Information highlights the need to improve access to choices when it comes to places you give birth.

The Birthplace study compares outcomes for births in different settings for healthy women with a straightforward pregnancy.

NHS Choices provides information about choosing where to have your baby.

Hollowell J, Puddicome D, Rowe R, et al. (2011) The Birthplace national prospective cohort study: perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth in England research programme: final report. NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation programme. Available at: https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/birthplace (Accessed 21st May 2018)

NICE. (2014) Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/chapter/Recommendations (Accessed 21st May 2018)

RCOG. (2011) RCOG statement on the results of the NPEU birthplace study. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/rcog-statement-on-the-results-of-the-npeu-birthplace-study/ (Accessed 21st May 2018)

 

 

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