Frequently asked questions

Home birth

▼ Why might I consider a home birth?

  • Your pregnancy has been straightforward and you want to give birth in a known environment that will keep you relaxed
  • You think having a baby is a natural process and have confidence in your body's ability to give birth
  • You would like to labour and give birth in a familiar and private environment
  • You would prefer to avoid having medical interventions
  • You would like to have the chance to get to know your midwives before the birth
  • You and your partner want to start your family life together at home, or perhaps you would like to have your other children nearby for the birth
  • If you plan a home birth, you will have some of your antenatal appointments with the team of midwives who will be looking after you in labour. They will get to know you during your pregnancy and may also look after you in the days following the birth of your baby
  • If you are healthy and having a straightforward pregnancy with your second or subsequent baby, planning to have your baby at home is suitable for you. It is as safe for your baby as planning to give birth in the Delivery suite and you are also more likely to have a natural birth and less likely to have medical interventions such as an episiotomy, a caesarean or instrumental birth and a blood transfusion
  • If you are healthy and having a straightforward pregnancy with your first baby, you can still choose to have your baby at home. Please view the birthplace study
  • If you are at increased risk of complications you are likely to be advised against a home birth and recommended to have your baby in a labour ward
  • During your home birth, midwives will come to your home and look after you in labour. If there are complications and you need to see a doctor, or you need additional pain relief, you will be transferred to the Delivery suite. This will require a journey by road, usually by ambulance
  • If you have any further questions, speak to your midwife first, who will then refer you to the appropriate team.

Birth centre

▼ Why might I consider the birth centre?

  • Your pregnancy has been straightforward and with no medical or obstrtric complications, but the idea of a home birth does not appeal to you
  • You want to give birth in a home-from-home friendly environment within a hospital environment
  • You feel that with the right support you could have a natural birth
  • You want to be able to use water in labour
  • You would prefer to avoid having medical interventions
  • You would like to have the chance to get to know your midwives before the birth
  • If you are healthy and having a straightforward pregnancy, planning to have your baby in the birth centre is particularly suitable for you
  • It is as safe for your baby as planning to give birth in the Delivery suite. You are also more likely to have a natural birth and less likely to have medical interventions such as an episiotomy, a caesarean or instrumental birth and a blood transfusion
  • Healthy women with a straightforward pregnancy are referred to us by their midwife or obstetrician by 34 weeks

▼ Who can attend my labour?

  • We encourage your partner to be present as you labour and give birth. You are also welcome to invite another companion to attend your birth. This could be a doula, another family member, a close friend or a doula

▼ What will help me cope with the pain of labour?

  • There are now a number of studies which show that women who give birth in birth centres use less pain relief such as epidurals or diamorphine/pethidine
  • Our Alexandra Birth Centre has two birthing pools. Many women use these birth pools and find the deep warm water helpful for labour and birth
  • We also use Entonox (gas and nitrous oxide). We encourage you to be active and to move around. We have mats, bean bags, couches and stools to support you in upright positions. Your midwife will help you focus and relax in an environment which is designed to do just that. Once you have given birth in the birth centre, you will stay there to recover until you are ready to go home. Please note that if you are confident that you will want an epidural during labour, you should plan to give birth on the Delivery suite.
  • If necessary, you could also use pethadin. This is given as an injection into your thigh or buttock to relieve pain. It can also help you to relax. Your midwife will be able to give you more information about this drug

▼ What if I experience complications during labour?

  • Our Birth Centre team include midwives and maternity support workers. You will be cared for in labour by one of our midwives but if complications develop you will be transferred to our Delivery suite where you may meet the medical team, including obstetricians and anaesthetists if necessary
  • At Watford General Hospital the Birth Centre and Delivery suite are relatively close together. In many cases, women are able to walk to the Delivery suite, but occasionally we may use a wheelchair or a trolley to transfer you to the Delivery suite if necessary
  • Ideally, the midwife caring for you at the birth centre will go with you to the Delivery suite to settle you in and provide a handover of care. Once you have given birth on the delivery suite, your postnatal care will be on the postnatal ward. If you have any further questions, talk to your midwife or ring the birth centres.

▼ What if I go into labour early?

  • If you go into labour before 37 weeks, go to hospital and you will be directed to the Delivery suite, where a medical team including midwives and obstetricians will provide your care.

Delivery suite

▼ Why might I consider the Delivery suite?

  • You are experiencing complications in your pregnancy
  • You have experienced complications in a previous pregnancy or labour
  • You have a medical illness that complicates your pregnancy
  • You are pregnant with twins or triplets
  • Your baby is in the 'breech' position (bottom down)
  • You are confident that you will want epidural pain relief during labour

The Delivery suite are led by obstetricians who provide care in collaboration with midwives. You will have a midwife who will provide care for you and attend your birth if you give birth on a Delivery suite. The Delivery suite offers equipment and facilities to provide interventions such as continuous fetal heart rate monitoring, a caesarean or instrumental birth and blood transfusions if necessary.

▼ What pain relief is available?

  • The Delivery suite offers several medical options for pain relief during labour, including gas and air, a diamorphine injection, a pethidine injection and an epidural.

▼ Who can attend my labour?

  • Just as in the birth centre, we encourage your partner to stay with you during labour. You are also welcome to invite another companion to attend your birth. This could be a doula, another family member or a close friend. where a medical team including midwives and obstetricians will provide your care.

▼ What if I experience complications?

  • If you experience complications during labour, you will not need to be moved – you will have access to midwives, obstetricians, anaesthetists and neonatologists as well as any appropriate medical interventions.

▼ What if I go into labour early?

  • If you go into labour early, before 37 weeks' gestation, contact Maternity triage. We may recommend you come straight to the hospital to Maternity triage where you will be assessed. Even if you planned to give birth at home or in a birth centre, if you go into labour before 37 weeks, you will need to be cared for on the Delivery suite, where obstetricians and midwives will provide care for you during labour.


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