Pregnancy & Parenting

What To Expect From A Hospital Birth

Vitabiotics | Published: 06/02/2024

What To Expect From A Hospital Birth

If you’re thinking about giving birth at a hospital, read our post on what to expect from an NHS hospital birth.

There are three main options when it comes to thinking about where you can give birth. These are:

  1. In a hospital
  2. In a unit run by midwives (referred to as a birth centre or midwifery unit)
  3. At home

The options about where you can have your baby will depend on the type of pregnancy you are having, your needs and any risks, and potentially the facilities available where you live.

Make sure you speak to your midwife or doctor if you have any questions, concerns or worries.

What Is A Hospital Birth?

A hospital birth is where you give birth at an NHS hospital maternity unit or a private maternity hospital (which you need to pay for).

You will primarily be looked after by midwifes, but doctors will be available if you need their help.

What Can I Expect From A Hospital Birth?

Your midwife will advise you about what to do when labour starts, and when to call your hospital or unit for advice on when to go to the hospital.

You will need to take your hospital bag for birth and maternity notes to the admissions desk on the maternity unit. You will then be taken to the labour ward or your own delivery room, and a midwife will examine you at determine what stage of labour you are at. You will then be looked after while your baby is delivered, and afterwards.

If you give birth in a hospital, there will be direct access to doctors and specialists if your labour becomes complicated.

There will also be specialists in newborn medicine and a special care baby unit (SCBU) if there are problems with your baby once they are delivered.

In hospital you can have all types of pain relief, including epidurals, if available.

Once you have given birth it is likely you will be taken from a delivery room to the postnatal ward with your baby. How long you stay depends on the type of delivery you had, and the health of you and your baby.

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What Should I Know About A Hospital Birth?

Advantages of hospital birth include - you may feel safer and more reassured giving birth in hospital, knowing that medical help is at hand should you need it.

Another advantage is that it s difficult to know how you will cope with labour pain until labour begins. A hospital birth will give you the option to have access to all types of pain relief including an epidural.

Disadvantages of hospital birth include that you will be giving birth in a more medicalised environment than a birth centre. However, you'll still have choices about the kind of care you want e.g. a water birth. Your midwives and doctors will provide information about what your hospital can offer.

Questions You May Have About Hospital Birth

How Do I Find A Local Hospital to Give Birth In?

Can you choose which hospital to give birth in the UK? Yes, you can. If you are willing to travel, you're free to choose any maternity services.

There are different facilities in each area, so ask your midwife about the options that are available.

It might help to speak to other mums about their experiences in local hospitals.

You can also get advice from your GP and find maternity services on the NHS website.

What Should I Take With Me To The Hospital? Your Hospital Bag For Birth

In terms of what to pack in your hospital bag for labour, you should take items for yourself and the baby and potentially your birth partner too.

Your hospital bag for birth should include:

  • Your folder of maternity notes
  • Comfortable night clothes if you’re staying in hospital for a while
  • Something you feel comfortable in to wear while giving birth
  • Comfortable, loose clothing to wear when you go home
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Breast pads and maternity pads for when the baby is here, and a supportive bra to wear while breastfeeding
  • Items for your birth partner, including drinks, snacks and a change of clothes

For the baby you will need to bring:

  • Clothing (including vests, baby grows and hats as well as an outdoor suit if the weather is cold)
  • Newborn nappies
  • Cotton wool
  • A newborn car seat to go home in, with a blanket

How Long Do You Stay In Hospital After Giving Birth?

How long you stay in hospital for depends on the type of birth you had and the health of you and your baby.

If both you and your baby are well, you'll usually be ready to go home anywhere between 6 and 24 hours after giving birth.

What Does The Hospital Provide After Birth In The UK?

In terms of what the hospital provides after birth in the UK, hospitals will provide bedding for you and the baby. However, you may want to take your own pillow and blanket for the baby. You will need to take your own clothing and nappies for the baby. You will also need to take your own maternity pads for after you have given birth.

The majority of NHS hospitals do not supply formula milk for babies – however they will have emergency supplies if there is a medical reason for giving your baby formula milk. Check with your midwife before you give birth.

Our Pregnacare Midwife Says

Our Pregnacare midwife has this advice for anyone considering a hospital birth:

“Feel free to move the room around how you see fit and ask your midwife to help you! In a typical hospital labour ward, the bed is in the centre of the room and naturally people feel they need to make use of the bed straight away. This doesn’t need to be the case even if you are attached to drips, wires and have pain relief like an epidural on board. Move the bed out of the way and ask your midwife for a birthing ball and some birthing mats, dim the lights, turn on your LED tea light candles that you packed in your hospital bag and play your favourite playlist out loud. Whether it’s your wedding playlist, or just your favourite relaxing spa-like songs. The free space will encourage you to mobilise as much as possible as opposed to lying on the bed for long periods of time. The relaxing ‘non-hospital like’ ambiance will help increase your oxytocin levels, which is needed for any labour. Remember, by mobilising and staying upright in labour we allow gravity to help us pull baby down onto the cervix and lower into the birth canal, in turn this can reduce the overall length of our labour and reduce the chances of needing further intervention for delivery.”


The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.

Meet the Author

Gill Crawshaw

Gill Crawshaw

Copywriter / Editor of TalkMum Blog

Gill Crawshaw

Copywriter / Editor of TalkMum Blog

Pregnancy and parenting editor and writer, mum of two Gill Crawshaw is the editor of the TalkMum blog, and a writer who specialises in pregnancy and parenting. With over 18 years experience in digital content creation, she also writes the blog A Baby On Board, which covers the parenting journey. Gill has two tween-age children and lives in south London.

Gillian Crawshaw

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