Choosing a place of birth

If you have any concerns around your pregnancy please call our Triage Helpline
Tel: 0300 131 5341

Your community midwife will discuss options for place of birth with you during your antenatal appointments.

You may know where you would like to give birth at your first appointment but most women need to think about this and discuss options with their partner, family and friends. You may make this decision at any stage during your pregnancy. What are my options?

Consultant Led Unit

An acute hospital unit where care is available from midwives and maternity support workers, obstetricians, anaesthetists and paediatricians. In East Sussex this service is provided at Conquest Hospital in St Leonards-on-Sea.

People who have certain medical conditions or who have complications during their pregnancy for themselves and their baby are advised to give birth in a Consultant Led Unit, but women with uncomplicated pregnancies can choose this too.

Here, doctors are available 24 hours a day. They are able to perform epidurals for pain relief, assisted and emergency births and there is a Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) – although not all SCBU baby units provide care for babies prior to 32 weeks.

If your baby is born prior to 32 weeks at Conquest Hospital your baby may need to be transferred to a specialist unit where specialist neonatal services are provided.

Home birth

A community midwife can come to your home and care for you while you give birth.

Women with an uncomplicated pregnancy can choose to give birth to their baby at home.

Birthplace (2011) showed that there were similar benefits for women choosing to give birth at home. Once established labour is started a midwife will care for the woman at home through the labour, with a second midwife present at the birth.

Midwife Led Unit (MLU)

A facility where you can give birth; receive antenatal and postnatal care from a team of midwives and maternity support workers. In East Sussex this service is priovded at the Eastbourne Midwifery Unit.

Women are able to choose to give birth to their babies at a MLU if their pregnancy has been uncomplicated. Giving birth is generally very safe for both the woman and the baby (Birthplace, 2011).

Any risk factors that develop during the pregnancy may require assessment by a consultant obstetrician either at a consultant led unit or in antenatal clinic or day assessment unit at  Conquest Hospital or Eastbourne DGH. This may then mean that the MLU or home is no longer the safest option for your birth. Plans will be discussed with you for the birth to take place in a consultant led unit such as Conquest Hospital.

The Birthplace study, which looked at 64,000 low risk births showed that birth centres appear to be safe for the baby and offer benefits for the mother. For planned births in a MLU there is no significant difference in outcomes for babies, however women who had planned birth in a MLU had significantly fewer interventions (ventouse, forceps and caesareans) and more normal births compared to a Consultant Led Unit.

The majority of women that come to a MLU in labour will successfully give birth there – more than 60% of women with their first baby and over 90% of women who have had a baby before. This is also evident in the published literature for home births.

It is possible for you to have a tour around our MLU by arrangement.