All about birthing centres
Not sure you want to deliver your baby on a busy maternity unit, but not convinced by home birth either? Then how about considering a birth centre or midwife-led unit?
At a glance
- Birth centres offer a home-from-home experience
- Many centres have birth pools and equipment such as birthing balls
- If you have any complications, you can transfer to your nearest hospital
What are birth centres?
Birth centres go by various names; midwife-led units, maternity hospitals, birthing centres – they all offer essentially the same low-tech birth experience, staffed and run by midwives. They are sometimes adjacent to, or on the same site, as hospitals, but can be a completely stand-alone facility. Their main appeal is that they offer a home-from-home experience – so not a whiff of hospital smells, equipment or white coats!
Who are they for?
Birth centres are for low-risk pregnancy mums who want to have their baby in a non-medicalised environment with as little intervention as possible, supported by their midwives.
What do they offer?
Many centres will have birth pools and equipment such as birthing balls for you to use during your labour. They do not have facilities for medical intervention, high-risk births, or caesarean sections.
What if something changes?
If you have any complications, your midwives will arrange for you to transfer to the nearest hospital. However, a study in 2016 found that only approximately four in 10 women having their first baby in a midwifery unit or birth centre were transferred, and approximately one in 10 women having their second or subsequent baby. Reasons women may be transferred include a delay in labour, concerns about the baby’s heart rate, or a request for an epidural.
Sounds good! How do I book one?
Speak to your midwife about birth centre facilities in your area – if you don't have a midwife-led unit locally, you might be able to book into one further afield.
'When I had my son I was the only one at the birthing centre, so I had the place to myself - visitors whenever I liked, and them pampering me non-stop! It was brilliant!'