Where to give birth

birth choices

Birth is a life-changing event. It is important that you and your partner are able to choose the setting that feels safe, comfortable and welcoming for you.

Choosing the right place for you to give birth can be one of the biggest influences into the type of birth you will have. National guidance suggests that for low risk women, midwife led environments such as home or a birth centre significantly increases your chance of a straightforward birth than birth in a consultant led hospital unit.

The choice of where you give birth is yours. Your options will be influenced by many factors and we may recommend one setting over another, however we will support you in your choice. There is lots of information in this section to help you make your decision and please also speak to your midwife for advice.

What are the options?

We provide maternity services at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath and in the community. You can choose whether you plan to give birth at home or at either of our hospitals. You can also choose to give birth at a midwife led unit, although we do not currently have one.

It might be that the place you give birth changes, due to the circumstances of your pregnancy or perhaps an increased workload at one of our hospital sites. Please be assured that the quality of the care we provide is maintained across our entire service and changes will only be made to ensure that you and your baby are cared for in the safest place at that time.

MLUs are designed to support low risk women to have normal births without medical intervention.  They can be ‘alongside’ an obstetric unit which means they are based within a hospital or ‘freestanding’ where they are separate from the nearest main hospital.

Midwives are responsible for your care during labour and support you to have a normal birth.  If you plan to give birth at a MLU and you need specialist medical care or pain relief such as an epidural you will need to transfer to the nearest consultant led unit.  In an ‘alongside’ unit you will transfer within the hospital and in a ‘freestanding’ unit you will transfer via ambulance.

Midwifery led units have a lower rate of intervention than in a consultant led unit and the outcome for the baby is no different.  This means that midwifery led units are safer for mum’s and as safe babies.

We do not currently have a MLU.  However, there are two local freestanding MLUs in Eastbourne and Crowborough where you can book your birth.  Talk to your midwife for more information.

Home birth is a planned birth at home with a midwife providing care during labour and following the birth.  If you plan to give birth at home and you need specialist medical care or pain relief such as an epidural you will need to transfer to the nearest consultant led unit via ambulance.

Our home birth service is award winning and has been recognised both locally and nationally in 2016.  Our highly experienced community midwives run our home birth service which is well staffed both day and night.  Our local rate of home birth is 4.3% (2015-16) compared to a national rate of 2.3%.  Our transfer rates to hospital from home are well below national rates and our poor outcome rates are also equal to or better than national levels.


What do people say about our homebirth service?

“…feel hugely lucky that we live in a place where homebirth isn’t a risky, vagabond choice, but a safe one. For anyone who’s considering alternatives to a hospital birth, I couldn’t imagine a better place than Brighton to have your baby at home”

“Our home birth was magical, you’re always welcome in our home, tandem feeding in the bath minutes after birth was incredible …we are absolutely chuffed with how [our baby’s] birth unfolded”

“The rush of love I felt for him was instant, he filled a gap that I didn’t even know existed. I was surrounded by caring and supportive midwives and my husband. For me this was all I needed, there’s no way I would have been comfortable with anyone else there. Some people have pain free labours, but I’ll be honest, my labour was painful. The pain however was manageable and all very soon forgotten about”

“That was the best day of my life and every day I fall more and more in love with him. I felt invincible after that, like a warrior woman. I still feel amazing about that day and feel like a stronger person for the experience. I would highly recommend a home birth if at all possible, I think if I had of been in hospital I would have ended up with a ventouse or forceps delivery. I know they say you forget the pain quickly, but when I think of having another baby, I just feel excited to go through it again”

Virtual tour

Watch our community tour which includes a homebirth

Our performance

National rates BSUH rates (2015-16)
Planned home birth 2.3% 4.3%
Transfer rates to hospital:

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Poor outcomes* (for low risk pregnancies):

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(0.5% hospital)


(0.3% hospital)



* Poor outcome means that the baby was injured, seriously ill or died during or just after birth. These outcomes are very rare amongst healthy women who are at low risk of complications, but they can happen in any birth setting. For women expecting their first baby, a poor outcome, whilst still uncommon, is more likely for planned home births.

Our labour ward at RSCH and our labour ward at PRH are ‘consultant led’ units. This means that there is a consultant on call for each site 24/7 and both sites provide medical, obstetric, neonatal and anaesthetic care.

Our hospital teams are experienced at looking after women with both complicated and low risk pregnancies.

Our facilities

All of our labour rooms are en suite and we have three low risk birthing pool rooms at RSCH and two at PRH. We encourage women to be as mobile as possible during labour and there are lots of birthing balls, bean bags and birthing mats available to facilitate an active labour. We also have a specialist obstetric theatre and recovery beds on the ward for both elective (planned) and emergency care on both labour wards.

Watch a virtual tour of our labour wards

People on the ward

You will be cared for by a midwife throughout your time on labour ward. We are a training hospital and you may be asked if a student midwife or medical student could be present to observe and take part in your care under supervision and with your permission. Many women feedback to us that they really benefited from having a student participate in their care. You will always be asked permission for a student to be present, and it is not a problem if you decline this offer.

You can have whoever you would like to support you in labour; your partner, a relative or a close friend. Doulas and natural therapists such as acupuncturists are welcomed onto the units and we encourage you to discuss your birth plan with your named midwife.


Women who are known to have a high risk medical problem or obstetric history or a known problem with their current pregnancy or baby are recommended to give birth in a consultant led unit, although low risk women may choose to give birth here too. Please also discuss your options with your midwife or doctor.

What setting is recommended for me?

Research shows slightly different expected outcomes for women having their first baby and those having their next baby.  Your community midwife will also be able to discuss this information with you and help you to make an informed choice.

The information in this section is based on the Birth Place Study and NICE guidance.

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