During your pregnancy, you will need to decide where you would like to have your baby. If you are having a low-risk pregnancy, you have several options locally.

All birth options should be available to you if:

  • You and your baby are healthy

  • You are between 37 weeks and 41 weeks plus 5 days gestation

  • This is your first pregnancy, or previous pregnancies and labours have gone well

  • Midwife-led Care: Women who are healthy and have a low chance of developing problems during pregnancy and birth will receive midwife-led care. This may change as your pregnancy progresses if you develop any complications, if you are having twins or more, or if you need closer monitoring.

  • Consultant-led Care: Women who have certain medical conditions, or a higher chance of developing problems during pregnancy and birth, will be overseen by a consultant obstetrician. As well as the routine pregnancy appointments with your midwife, you will also have appointments with an obstetrician, and possibly other specialist appointments too. These will be tailored to your needs.

If you live on the outskirts of Dorset, you may wish to have your baby at Salisbury or Yeovil hospital.

What might affect your choices

During your booking appointment, your midwife will ask you about your general and current health, and any previous pregnancies and labours. They will also explain to you if you have any risk factors, which could cause complications in labour. This information will help your midwife to advise you on the safest and most suitable options for your labour and give you the opportunity to discuss how you feel about this.

If you are having a higher-risk or more complex pregnancy, your choices may be more limited. Your midwife or consultant will discuss anything that might impact your choices with you. This might include things like diabetes, high blood pressure, previous caesareans, having twins or more, or restricted growth of your baby.

Choosing where to give birth

How to choose

Choosing where to have your baby can be difficult and there are many factors to consider. We suggest visiting My Birth Place which gives you more information about the units closest to you, including some videos and tours.

If you live on the outskirts of Dorset, you may wish to have your baby at Salisbury or Yeovil hospital.

What to consider

The first thing to consider is the type of birth you want. For example, would you feel more comfortable at home, in a midwife-led unit, or would the presence of doctors make you feel more confident? Would you rather have your baby somewhere that can perform assisted deliveries and caesareans  if they are needed, or would you be happy being transferred via ambulance if these things are necessary?

One of the most important factors to consider if the type of pain relief  you would like during labour. Your pain relief options vary between locations, so it’s worth considering this when making your choice.

If you would like to try a water birth, most of the units have birthing pools and pools are available to hire or purchase for home births. If you would like an epidural you will need to have your baby in a consultant-led unit (either Poole Maternity Hospital or Dorset County Hospital).

Pain relief available at each hospital

Bournemouth Poole Dorset County Home birth
Bean Bags/Birthing Balls/ Mats Yes Yes Yes Yes
Aromatherapy Yes Yes Yes Yes (If midwife trained)
Birthing Pool Yes Yes Yes Yes (Hire/Buy)
TENS Yes (Hire Own) Yes (Hire Own) Yes Yes (Hire/Buy)
Gas & Air Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pethidine Yes Yes Yes No
Remifentanil No Yes No No
Epidural No Yes Yes No

If you would like to try a water birth, most of the units have birthing pools, but if you would like an epidural you will need to have your baby in a consultant-led unit (either Poole or Dorset County Hospital).

Next, think about the distance of each location from your home – how long would it take you to get there during busy times, especially if this is a second or subsequent labour?

If you or your baby need additional monitoring or care, your consultant may tell you that you need to give birth in a consultant-led unit, but you may still be able to choose which one (e.g. Poole or Dorset County Hospital). We recommend talking to your consultant or midwife about your personal options.

Looking at the statistics for each location will give you more information – for midwife-led units, this will tell you how many transfers have been necessary, how long transfers take, and other useful statistics. For consultant-led units, you can see information on the number of assisted births, caesareans, and so on. Lots of women find that these statistics are a useful part of choosing where to give birth.

More information about choosing where to have your baby.

Your birth preferences

You might have a list of specific birth preferences, or you might not have many at all – every woman is different. We want to empower you to have the birth you want, and your midwife can discuss your options with you.

Not every woman will have the same options, as this is based on how your pregnancy is progressing, your health, your baby’s health, any complications, and whether you are having more than one baby. Your midwife and / or obstetrician will discuss with you if there are any factors that will impact your choices around your birth.

Lots of these things will form part of your written birth plan, and your midwife will help you to complete this. The staff taking care of you will read your plan and do their utmost to follow it. Sometimes this is not always possible, due to changes and complications that may arise, but any necessary changes will be discussed with you.

Your midwife will encourage you to think about the things that really matter to you about your birth experience and help you to get them down on paper. If you have any specific fears or concerns, this is a good opportunity to discuss them. It’s a good idea to consider all possibilities, and think about anything you might want if you do need an induction, assisted delivery or caesarean.

Birth Choices clinic

If you need more support around these issues, Poole Maternity runs a clinic on Birth Choices clinic on Monday afternoons, run by a senior midwife. Referrals to the clinic can be made by your team midwife or consultant.

At Dorset County Hospital, please contact your midwife for further information on Birth Choices and counselling.

You might want to attend the clinic if you:

  • Are experiencing fear of labour (also known as tokophobia), which is affecting your life and stopping you from enjoying your pregnancy. This could be due to a previous life or labour experience, or the uncertainty of a first labour.

  • Wish to find out more about your options and discuss a plan for delivery, especially if you have had a previous caesarean.

  • Feel you are not being listened to about your choices for labour.

It is useful to discuss how you are feeling with your birth partner and make some notes on what you wish to discuss at your appointment. Make a list of any questions you would like to be answered.