Giving birth: what are my options?

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You've probably realised that being pregnant involves lots of decisions and a pretty big one of these is exactly where you'll give birth and how you intend to hopefully give birth.

Depending on the type of pregnancy you've had and even where you live, your choices will vary, but to give you an idea of what your options could be, we've rounded up our articles where you find out more information to help you make a decision.

Don't forget to check out our positive birth stories to give you a burst of encouragement.

Where can I give birth?

How can I give birth?

How to choose where to give birth

There's no magic answer to this one we're afraid! It's important you and your birth partner are on the same page so we'd recommend talking about it extensively and weighing up the positives and negatives.

Your midwife is your best port of call to chat to about what is available to you personally as unfortunately, sometimes the clinical support you require will rule out certain options such as a home birth.

Don't forget to make use of friends and family who have given birth too, and find out what their experiences were. But don't worry if what you are leaning towards is different. After all, every birth - and every baby - is different.

Whatever you decide, it has to be right for you and remember, you can change your mind at any point in your pregnancy.

What factors should I consider?

60 per cent of women end up giving birth at the place of their choice, so it's wise to really sit down and think about what you want. Here are a few factors to consider...

  • How far will you need to travel to get to the destination? You won't want to go far!

  • What pain relief options will be available?

  • If you really want a water birth, are there facilities so this is possible?

  • Is your partner able to stay?

  • Who will be looking after you during your pregnancy and the labour?

  • What care can you expect post-birth? Will there be breastfeeding support if this is something you'd like?

Hospital birth

The majority of women will give birth in an NHS hospital maternity unit where you'll be looked after by midwives generally with doctors on hand if necessary. You'll have direct access to obstetricians, anaesthetists and there will be specialists in newborn care (neonatologists) and a special care baby unit should any problems arise.

Midwifery units or birth centres

Midwife-led units are staffed entirely by midwives, unlike traditional obstetric labour wards where doctors and anaesthetists are present. There are two kinds of midwife-led birthing centres: stand-alone birth centres and wards attached to hospitals. In both cases, all care is carried out by midwives who are experts in childbirth with all the skills to help you deliver your baby in a straightforward pregnancy. Read about Katie's experience of a midwife-led unit.

Home birth

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Giving birth at home can often progress more smoothly because women are more relaxed. It can mean less disruption to the flow of labour, more freedom to move about, sleep, eat and focus.

Deciding how to give birth

Once you've decided where you want to give birth, you may also want to consider exactly how you want to give birth. Again, there are many different options to consider and depending on your pregnancy journey and health. To help you learn more about the different options when making your birth plan, we've put together a list of some of the ways to give birth you might want to or need to think about before and during labour.

Water birth

Water births have become increasingly popular over recent years and now almost 10 per cent of UK babies are born underwater. They're totally safe for both you and baby and can help you relax, ease pain and take the weight of your bump while you push

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of a water birth, you can read more about water births here.

Vaginal birth (or 'natural' birth)

If you're keen to let nature take its course without being in a pool or taking pain relief, you might be considering giving birth vaginally and leaving your body to do it's thing without any interventions. Of course, while many mums plan to give birth in this way, it's not always possible due to complications, but if you're keen to learn more about giving birth in this way, we've rounded up everything you need to know here.


While it may not be many people's first choice, 25 per cent of babies are now born via c-section. Sometimes mums can opt for a c-section, or they may have to have one to keep baby safe. Even if a c-section is not on your mind, it's important to get clued up on them just in case it becomes an option. Find out everything you need to know about c-sections here.

Assisted birth

When it comes to those final stages of labour and that last big push to bring your baby into the world, you may be offered or need a little extra help in getting baby out safely, which is why it's important to know more about forceps and ventouse in birth and how they might be able to help you if you're reaching the point of exhaustion.


Pain management options {#h-pain-management-options}

There are a number of different ways you can cope with the pain of giving birth. We've listed just a few different methods of pain relief and pain management below that many mums opt for when giving birth. Of course, every mum is different and you might change your mind while giving birth on how much pain relief you want, so it's important to have an understanding of all your different options before you go into labour.

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