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Hospital or Home Birth?

So you’re pregnant. Now what? Time to make a few decisions! And while the birth may be a while off yet, it’s going to creep up on you a lot sooner than you think. When you go for your booking in appointment with your midwife, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked about your birth preferences (and if you aren’t, then this is a good time to bring them up yourself!). So, what’s it to be- hospital or home birth?

Most women are firmly on one side of the fence or another. Some feel more comfortable in a hospital setting, and some could think of nothing worse- preferring the comfort of their own home over a hospital ward any day. And as long as your pregnancy is free from complications, your midwife should be able to help guide you towards a birth that is right for you. But how do you know what’s right for you? And do you know your rights when it comes to choosing exactly where you give birth? Hopefully our pros and cons will help…

Hospital birth

When you book in with your midwife, you’ll be referred to a hospital which will lead the care during your pregnancy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give birth in hospital by any means, but at this point it’s kind of assumed that you will. Incidentally, you’re free at any point during your pregnancy to switch hospitals if you want to. 

As long as your pregnancy is low risk and you’re fit and healthy, you’ll normally only visit your hospital for scheduled scans before the big event, which can be anywhere from 37 weeks onwards. So what happens when you go into labour? 

Many women are admitted onto the labour ward when they’re in the early stages of labour, and from there they’re assessed and a care plan will be put into place. 

The pros:

  • Once you’re admitted to hospital, you will be monitored and staff will be keeping an eye on you and your baby
  • Many women feel safe and comforted being in the hospital, especially if they’re finding the labour scary 
  • You will be given information about pain relief available to you, should you decide to take it
  • You will be close to expert medical staff who are qualified and experienced in caring for you and your baby
  • Should complications occur, you would have immediate access to medical attention

The cons:

  • Some women find the hospital setting daunting or stressful, and some studies have found that the progression of labour can actually slow or even stop once women are admitted to the labour ward
  • With the advances of medial technology, some women feel that hospitals are too reliant on interventions during labour-for example, lots of women are monitored throughout and find this very restrictive
  • Many women report that they did not see the same midwife throughout the duration of their labour and birth
  • Some women struggle with a lack of privacy during their time in hospital, with staff and other women and their families coming and going
  • Some women feel that their birth plans and wishes are not respected by the hospital, and might find it hard to voice this
  • Some women feel that hospitals are under staffed and that they don’t receive the proper care that they deserve 

Home Birth

Recent research has concluded that home birth is no less safe than a hospital birth, for women in a low risk pregnancy. If this is you, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider this as an option. Its not for everyone, of course, but if you think it might be then these pros and cons might help you to make your mind up. 

The pros:

  • You give birth in the comfort of your own home
  • You are more likely to have one midwife throughout your labour and birth
  • There are no restrictions on you when it comes to moving around, watching television, going for a bath, eating and drinking etc
  • There are no restrictions on which birth positions you find most comfortable
  • There are fewer time restrictions placed on you, and less chance for interventions
  • You have more privacy in your own home
  • You don't have any restrictions on how many visitors you can have

The cons:

  • Depending on your hospital, you may need to have your home birth approved by a senior midwife or consultant, which some women can find stressful
  • Access to pain relief is limited, and women are usually only offered gas and air
  • It’s more difficult to monitor baby during labour
  • You will need a clear plan in place should complications occur, and you won’t have access to certain medical treatments immediately
  • You may need to be transferred to hospital 

While it’s not always an easy decision to make when it comes to choosing your place of birth, remember that it is your decision. Hopefully your medical team will be supportive and able to talk through any questions that you may have, and hopefully this post has helped a little! Let us know in the comments, and if you’ve had a home brith do get in touch and let us know how it went.