In some areas you can have your baby in a small maternity unit run by midwives or family doctors. It may be a small separate building or part of a larger hospital. Most women who have had a baby in a community unit, or have been transferred there after they have had their baby, say their care was very personal and friendly. Small maternity units specialise in normal births. However, they do not have the full medical facilities of a hospital. A midwife or GP unit that is attached to a hospital can transfer you quickly if you need special medical care.
"Everything was so calm. I was fully consulted at every stage. There was a lovely deep bath adjoining the labour room and a beanbag and rocking chair. It was by far the nicest of my births." Heather Kidd, who had her last baby in a GP unit.
The NCT is campaigning for improvements in the maternity services. It would like all women to have the choice of either having their baby at home or in a small community unit.
With caseload midwifery you have a really good chance of knowing the midwife who will look after you during the labour. For most women, this means seeing the same midwife during the pregnancy, during the birth and for at least 10 days with your new baby. This is known as 'continuity of carer'. In some areas, midwives work in teams and you may have a small group of known midwives looking after you. However, in some areas continuity of care may be offered to low-risk women only or not at all.
If you can afford to pay for an independent midwife, you will be assured one-to-one care with your midwife and her colleagues at home, in a hospital, or possibly in a birth centre. The midwives will stay with you during the labour and give you postnatal care for six weeks after the birth.
"I received first-class care during my pregnancy and felt in safe hands. Elaine was very proactive about encouraging this baby into the optimum position and Sophie was born after a very calm, gentle second stage. It was the best £1,500 we've ever spent." Tikki, whose third baby was a 'vaginal birth after Caesarean', delivered at home with the help of an independent midwife.
Although such care will be costly (expect to pay a minimum of £1,200), your independent midwife may be licensed to provide care under the NHS.