safe motherhood


Choosing a hospital

In hospital, 70% of women are attended by a midwife without an obstetrician.

Obstetricians specialise in dealing with women who have medical complications, whereas midwives deal with healthy women undergoing a normal pregnancy.

In hospital, you will have a greater range of pain relief, for instance: gas and air (also available at home); pethidine (sometimes available at home); and epidural (only possible in hospital). However, gaining access to a birthing pool may be difficult to guarantee.

Hospitals tend to have greater electronic monitoring of labour. For example, it's normal to be offered at least 20 minutes of electronic fetal monitoring on arrival (see First stage of labour/monitoring). Monitoring can reassure your carers, but there isn't a lot of evidence that it improves the outcome.

Internal vaginal examinations tend to be done routinely at hospital, but at home it's up to you. Remember: you can refuse. You can ask for an internal examination only if there is a medical necessity. In hospital, you may see a range of different midwives and may not have the same midwife with you throughout the labour.

If you have a complication that requires medical intervention, only a hospital can provide the facilities for a Caesarean section, or for instrumental deliveries (see Second stage of labour/medical interventions). If there is a chance your baby will be born prematurely, only a hospital will have the special care facilities needed.

You can find out more about the practices in your hospital from the hospital itself, from your community health council, or from antenatal classes. Your local NCT branch is usually very familiar with the policies of hospitals in the area.