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Having a baby at a birthing centre

6-minute read

What are my options for where I have my baby?

When you find out you're pregnant, you will need to think about:

  • where you'd like to have your baby
  • who will care for you
  • the type of birth experience you would like

There are many options, including a birthing centre. A birthing centre is an alternative option to a hospital for your labour and birth. This page explains more about birthing centres.

Make sure that you explore all your birthing options to find the care that is right for you. It’s important to have a positive, trusting relationship with your care provider. You have the right to respectful maternity care that is culturally safe and enables informed choices.

Why choose a birthing centre?

Birthing centres treat pregnancy and birth as normal life events and provide a less medical approach to birth. They often feel more relaxed and home-like than hospitals and are usually run by midwives.

Generally, you will have your own room, a double bed and ensuite bathroom. In some centres different options such as water birth is available.

In many birthing centres, continuous care is available. This means the same group of midwives look after you throughout your pregnancy, birth and for a while after the baby is born. This can help you feel more comfortable as you can develop a trusting relationship with your midwife.

Birthing centres only take people who have a low-risk pregnancy — this means that you and your baby are healthy and your birth is expected to be straightforward. The birthing centre will decide whether you have a low-risk pregnancy.

There are some private birthing centres, but most are located in a public hospital or close to it. This means that if complications happen, you can be transferred to hospital if more medical care is required for you or your baby.

During labour, you can have people of your choice around you. Some birthing centres allow your children to be with you.

Birthing centres aim for minimal medical intervention, so there are fewer pain relief options available than in hospitals. Gas and some medicines might be available, but the midwives are more likely to encourage you to use relaxation, massage, movement, water and other forms of natural pain relief. If you decide you would like an epidural, you will be transferred to the hospital labour ward.

When should I book in to the birthing centre?

If you would like to have your baby in a birthing centre, talk with your midwife or doctor and check whether there is one in your area. Each is birthing centre is different. You may require a doctor’s referral, or be able to refer yourself.

Birthing centres are usually in demand, so it’s a good idea to book in as soon as you know that you are pregnant.

Your first appointment with a doctor or midwife is usually around 10 to 16 weeks into your pregnancy. At this time, you can also talk about antenatal classes run through the birthing centre.

Can I have my antenatal care at the birthing centre?

Birthing centres also provide your antenatal care. This can be through the birthing centre or through the hospital that they are attached to. You will have the opportunity to get to know the midwives and the team looking after you. You may also be able to see a doctor that works through the centre if you need extra medical care.

How much does it cost?

Most birthing centres are publicly funded so the cost is generally covered by Medicare. However, it is a good idea to ask about any additional costs.

What happens after I’ve had my baby?

After your birth, the midwives will help you with feeding and caring for your baby. If everything is going well, you may go home early, sometimes within 6 hours of giving birth. The midwives will be there to support you when you head home and provide care for you and your baby including breastfeeding support.

If you need to stay longer, you may be transferred to the hospital maternity ward.

Before you leave the birthing centre (or hospital), a doctor and midwife will check your baby. A midwife or early childhood nurse will visit you at home in the following weeks.

Where can I get more information and advice?

Use Pregnancy, Birth and Baby's service finder to help you locate: your nearest doctor, obstetrician, maternal child health nurse and other health professionals across Australia.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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