Here's a how-to guide to registering a birth in the UK, including where to register a birth, how soon you have to do it and what you need with you.
Before you know it, it will be time to register the birth of your baby. Here we cover everything you need to do.
When do I need to register the birth?
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the law requires you to register a birth within 42 days (GOV.UK, 2019a). In Scotland, a birth needs to be registered within 21 days (National Records of Scotland, 2019).
Where do I register the birth?
Your baby must be registered in the district where they were born. All births should be registered at the local registry office or at the hospital before the mother leaves. Your hospital will tell you whether you can register the birth there (GOV.UK, 2019a).
Who can register the birth?
If you’re married, either you or your partner can give the registrar the information they need to register your baby’s birth. They can include both parents’ details if you’re married.
If you’re not married, the mother can choose to register the birth without the child’s father. In this case, the father’s name would not be included on the birth certificate but may be added later by completing an application for the re-registration of a child’s birth (GOV.UK, 2019b).
If you’re not married:
- Mum can provide all the information to the registrar.
- Dad can provide the information but only if he has the agreement of mum. This agreement must be given by signing a declaration. The dad must also sign a declaration.
- If both parents sign the birth register together, both parents’ details can be included in the birth certificate, so dad will automatically get parental rights and responsibilities for the child.
- Details of both parents can be included if one parent completes a statutory declaration of parentage form or a court order giving dad the parental responsibility. The mum takes this to register the birth.
As a same sex couple how do we register a birth?
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008 makes sure that civil partners get the same rights as married couples and same-sex couples not in a civil partnership, in line with unmarried couples (Legislation.gov.uk, 2008).
In the UK the woman carrying the baby is automatically a legal parent, while the other mother is not, even if she is the biological mother. The organisation Rights of women helps explain this and may be able to provide further information and support.
Male couples need to obtain a parental order from the court to be registered as the child’s parents (GOV.UK, 2019b).
Married or civil partner parents
If a woman has a child by donor insemination or fertility treatment and was in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment, either woman can go to register the baby’s birth on their own. The birth mother’s civil partner will be the child’s legal parent (GOV.UK, 2019b).
Unmarried, non-civil parents
For female couples, the birth mother can register the birth alone. Her female partner can only be added to the register if she completes a ‘statutory declaration of acknowledgement of parentage’ form or gets a document from the court giving her the parental responsibility.
If the mother and their partner register the child jointly, the partner will ensure that she has parental responsibilities and rights towards the child (GOV.UK, 2019b).
How do I register my adopted child?
When the baby is born it will be registered just like any other child, with the name of its birth mother and, if available, birth father.
If the child is adopted, an updated registration will be made after the General Registrar has received the appropriate court order. This updated registration will include the details of the adoptive parents.
The new certificate will be linked to the original one, which will be held in a confidential index. The original certificate will be accessible by the child in question once they reach the age of 18 (GOV.UK, 2019d).
How do I register my baby conceived after fertility treatment?
A baby born following fertility treatment is registered in the same way as a baby born to any other couple. The child is registered to the couple who received the fertility treatment together and no mention of any donor is made (Cambridgeshire County Council, 2019).
How do I register my baby born through surrogacy?
There are two phases to doing this. The baby born to a surrogate mother needs to be registered initially as the child of the woman who gave birth.
Next, if you’re the ‘commissioning parents’ (the couple who arranged the surrogacy), you can apply to the courts for a Parental Order. This allows you to re-register the birth and be named as the child’s parents. You should do this when the baby is six weeks to six months old.
On issuing a Parental Order, the court notifies the General Register Office automatically, who re-register the birth. This new record will supersede the original (Cambridgeshire County Council, 2019).
Who else can register the birth?
If neither mum, dad or either partner in same-sex couples are able to register the birth, another ‘informant’ may do so on their behalf. Whoever this is will be expected to provide a compelling reason as to why they, rather than the child’s parents, are registering that the baby has been born. Reasons might include things like medical situations.
Other informants can include:
- Someone in permanent residence in the place where the child was born.
- Someone who was present when the child was born.
- Staff at the hospital where the child was born.
What details do I need to register the birth?
There might be slight variations within England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But as a general rule you should take the following information with you when you visit the registrar's office:
- the card issued by the hospital
- your marriage certificate (if applicable)
- the mum’s maiden name
- the full name of your baby
- your baby’s sex and their date of birth
- district and place of birth of your baby
- full names, dates of birth, full address(es) and occupations of the parents.
If you don't have all of these, the registrar might still be able to register that your child has been born.
How much are birth certificates?
Each region will provide a shortened version of the registry certificate for free. If you wish to have a copy of the full version, the costs are:
- England and Wales - £11 for either a short or a full version of the certificate.
- Scotland - an 'abbreviated extract' of the birth certificate is free and the long version is £15 plus postage (or £30 plus postage for the same day service).
- Northern Ireland - the short version of the birth certificate is free and you can buy a long version for £8.
(Citizens Advice Scotland, 2019; GOV.UK, 2019)
Can I register the birth without a name?
Naming your baby can be quite daunting as their name will stay with them for life. Unlike the countries that hold lists of appropriate names, the UK allows you to name your baby whatever you choose.
You can find many sites that can help you find a name you like. If you cannot decide on a name for your baby within the specified time of 42 days in England and Wales, then you must still register the birth but the name will be left blank. You have up to one year from the date of registration to decide on a name and enter it on the register (Legislation.gov.uk, 2019).
In Scotland, if you cannot think of a name for your baby within 21 days, it can be recorded later on if the parents apply for a change of name for the child (Citizens Advice Scotland, 2019).
Will I receive the birth certificate after I register the birth?
You will receive a short birth certificate and a registration card that you will need to complete and take to your local GP surgery.
"You won't be able to register your child with a doctor without this registration card".
When you register your baby, the registrar will either give you an application form to apply for a full birth certificate or you can get one there and then. If you registered your baby in a different area, you should get their birth certificate in a few days.
You will need the full certificate for a number of reasons, including applying for child benefit (GOV.UK, 2019c).
This page was last reviewed in July 2019
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby courses helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
The General Register for Scotland has information on registering births in Scotland.
For information on registering a birth in Northern Ireland go to NIdirect.
Stonewall the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity has information on the issues affecting same-sex couples.
GOV.UK. (2019a) Register a birth. Overview. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/register-birth [Accessed 18th July 2019]
GOV.UK. (2019b) Register a birth. Who can register a birth. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/register-birth/who-can-register-a-birth [Accessed 18th July 2019]
GOV.UK. (2019c) Register a birth. Birth certificates. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/register-birth/birth-certificates [Accessed 18th July 2019]
GOV.UK. (2019d) Adoption records. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/adoption-records/the-adoption-contact-register [Accessed 18th July 2019]
National Records of Scotland. (2019) Registering a Birth. Available at: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/registering-a-birth [Accessed 18th July 2019]
Legislation.gov.uk. (2008) Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/22/contents [Accessed 18th July 2019]
Cambridgeshire County Council. (2019) Registering a baby conceived after fertility treatment or surrogacy. Available at: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/births-deaths-and-marriages/births/registering-a-baby-conceived-after-fertility-treatment-or-surrogacy/
Legislation.gov.uk. (2019) Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/1-2/20
Citizens Advice Scotland. (2019) Birth certificates. Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/family/birth-certificates-and-changing-your-name-s/birth-certificates-s/#h-choosing-the-child-s-name