bristol • north somerset • south gloucestershire

Where to give birth

You may have started to think about where you would like to have your baby. You do not have to make up your mind about where you would like to give birth until later on in pregnancy and can change your mind even at the start of labour, but it is a good idea to find out about your options and discuss them with your family and your midwife or doctor. All three maternity services in the area provide a choice of birth settings, but you can opt to give birth at a different Trust than the Trust which provides your care in pregnancy.

The main choice is between giving birth in a midwife-led unit, at home, or in a consultant-led unit. If your pregnancy is straightforward and you are healthy, you could opt to have your baby at home or in one of the midwife-led units. Giving birth in a consultant-led unit is recommended if you had problems in a previous pregnancy, if you have developed complications in this pregnancy, or in case of certain medical conditions.

A recent very large study in the UK found that for healthy women without pregnancy complications, planned birth in a midwife-led unit was as safe for them and their babies as planned birth in a consultant-led unit. Birth in midwife-led units was also associated with fewer interventions like caesarean section, and more normal births. The same was true for homebirths when women had had a baby before, but for first-time mothers the risks for the baby were slightly increased, although still very low.

The national guidelines for care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth (the NICE intrapartum guidelines) were updated in December 2014 and reflect these findings. They recommend that women should be supported whichever place of birth they choose and that for women at low risk of complications, planned birth in a midwife-led unit (for any women at low risk) or at home (for women who have had a baby before) is particularly suitable, because the rate of interventions is lower and the safety for the baby is no different compared to a consultant-led unit.

The most important thing is to be where you feel relaxed and secure, as this will help the birth process and bonding with your newborn baby. For some this will be at home, for others in a midwife-led unit or hospital. You will be given advice based on the best available research evidence and will be supported in your choices by the maternity services but if you are advised against your preferred place of birth and wish to discuss this further, you can contact a Supervisor of Midwives.

There are two stand-alone midwife-led units in the area (Ashcombe Birth Centre and Cossham Birth Centre), and two ‘alongside’ midwife-led units, located in the same building as a consultant-led unit (Mendip Birth Centre and St Michael’s Midwife-led Unit).

The two consultant-led units are at St Michael’s Hospital and Southmead Hospital.

Particularly if you live near its boundaries, you may want to explore other options outside of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area by typing in your postcode on the Which? Birth Choice site.