Birth Options

At Kingston we are committed to supporting your choices for your birth. 

Where, how, and when you give birth will depend on your individual circumstances and what’s important to you. 

You will have opportunities during your pregnancy to discuss your options with your midwife or obstetrician.

You may find the information below helpful to guide your decisions.

Where will I give birth

Deciding where to have your baby is an important decision for you. We believe that you should give birth in an environment where you feel safe, comfortable and relaxed.

You have the option to give birth:

Different types of support and pain relief are available in each of the birthing areas. Click on the links to find out more about what each area offers.

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated and considered “low-risk”, you might like to read more about your options, and the likelihood of different types of birth, here: 

This is your first baby:  Birth-options-first-baby.pdf (  

You have had a baby before: Birth-option-baby-before.pdf ( 

How will I give birth – Vaginal birth

Spontaneous vaginal birth

A spontaneous vaginal birth is a birth where the mother pushes the baby out herself without any medical assistance.

It is the most common type of birth.

This animated film illustrates the journey of a spontaneous labour and birth:

The Physiology of Childbirth – YouTube

In England in 2021-22:

65 in 100 women had a vaginal birth (either spontaneous vaginal birth or assisted vaginal birth – using forceps or a ventouse suction cup).

53 in 100 women had a spontaneous vaginal birth.

Generally, women who have had a spontaneous vaginal birth will:

  • have a faster recovery than women who have an assisted vaginal birth or a caesarean birth.
  • have a shorter hospital stay  
  • be less likely to need regular pain medication or to have an infection after the birth.
  • usually have a shorter labour in the future, with a low chance of complications for themselves and their baby.

Most women recover well and have healthy babies after a spontaneous vaginal birth.

It is common during a first vaginal birth to experience vaginal or perineal tears. The perineum is the area between the vagina and anus. This area stretches as the baby is born. For most women, these tears are minor and heal quickly. 

You can read more about perineal tears here: Perineal tears during childbirth | RCOG and about ways to reduce the chance of more serious perineal tears here: Reducing your risk of perineal tears | RCOG

It is also common for the muscles that support the bladder, bowel and uterus (known as the pelvic floor) to be weaker after birth, which may temporarily affect control of your bladder and, less commonly, control of your bowels.

These muscles can be strengthened with regular pelvic floor exercises.  You can read more about how to strengthen your pelvic floor after childbirth here: Your pelvic floor | RCOG and here: Pelvic Health Information – Squeezy (

Assisted vaginal birth (also known as an instrumental birth)

An assisted vaginal birth is when a doctor uses forceps or a ventouse suction cup to help the baby to be born. 

In 2021-22 in England:

20 out of 100 first-time mothers had an assisted vaginal birth.

5 out of 100 women who had given birth before had an assisted vaginal birth.

You can read more about assisted vaginal birth here: 

Assisted vaginal birth (ventouse or forceps) | RCOG and Forceps or vacuum delivery – NHS (

Most women recover well and have healthy babies after an assisted vaginal birth

An assisted vaginal birth will only be recommended if it is considered the safest option for you and your baby. 

Are there ways to reduce the chance of having an assisted vaginal birth?

  • Having continuous support during your labour from a birth partner reduces the chance of needing additional interventions in labour
  • Using different positions during the pushing stage of your labour, for instance upright positions or lying on your side, increases your chance of having a straightforward vaginal birth. At Kingston we support women to try different positions in labour. All our rooms have birthing balls and “peanut” balls which can be used to help the baby into the best position for birth. You can read more about “biomechanics” in labour here.
  • Not starting to push too soon after your cervix is completely open (“fully dilated”) if you do not have a strong urge to push. Your midwife will advise you about this, depending on your individual circumstances.
  • Giving birth at home or in a Birth Centre (the midwife-led unit) if your pregnancy is uncomplicated reduces the chance of needing an assisted vaginal birth and an episiotomy.
  • There is some evidence that having an epidural may increase the chance of needing an assisted vaginal birth. You can read more about epidurals here: Epidural advice and information – Labour Pains and here:
  • If your labour is induced, this may slightly increase the chance of an assisted vaginal birth

How will I give birth – Caesarean birth

A Caesarean birth is major abdominal surgery, where a cut is made in your abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. It is carried out in an operating theatre by a team of doctors, midwives and support staff.

In 2021-22 in England:

35 in 100 women had a Caesarean birth.

You can read more about Caesareans and what to expect here: 

Most women recover well and have healthy babies after a caesarean birth.

Having a Caesarean means it is likely you will take longer to recover physically after the birth compared to a vaginal birth.

Some caesareans are planned, some are unplanned.

A caesarean is “unplanned” when it is recommended during labour as the safest option for you or your baby. Most unplanned caesareans are not emergencies.
The most common reasons for unplanned caesarean birth are:

  • labour is not progressing
  • there are concerns for your baby’s well being

A Caesarean birth may be planned if:

  • it is recommended during pregnancy as the safest option for you or your baby 
  • you decide that a Caesarean is the best option for you. 

If you request a Caesarean, we will offer you an additional appointment to find out what matters to you and discuss the risks and benefits.
You can read more about planned caesarean birth here

We recommend that you discuss this information with your midwife or doctor.

How will I give birth – after a previous Caesarean

If you have previously had one caesarean, it does not mean that this is your only option for future births. You can plan either:

  • a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC)
  • a caesarean.

To find out more about your options you can:

  • read our decision aid here
  • book to attend our free online workshop “Birth options after a Caesarean”. This one-hour midwife-led online workshop is for anyone booked to give birth at Kingston Maternity who has previously had one caesarean birth. It is an opportunity to explore your options for birth, including the risks and benefits of planning either a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC) or a repeat Caesarean birth.

When: Every alternate Monday, 10-11am

Book through Eventbrite

If you have had more than one caesarean birth, your individual options will be discussed with your doctor.

When will I give birth

Most labours start naturally between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Your pregnancy is considered “full-term”. 

You can read more about what happens when you go into labour here: 

Labour has started, what next? – Kingston Hospital

An induced labour is one that is started artificially. 

About 1 in 3 labours in England are started in this way.

You can read more about induction of labour here:
Induction of labour – Kingston Hospital

You can also book to attend our free one-hour midwife-led online workshop which is for anyone booked for an induction of labour at Kingston Maternity Unit. It is an opportunity to learn about the process of induction, the different methods that may be offered, what to expect during your stay with us, what to bring, and ways to make the experience a positive one.

When: Thursdays, 10-11am

Book through Eventbrite

If you go into labour before 37 weeks, it is considered a premature birth. About 1 in 13 labours start before 37 weeks.

Your baby may need extra help with breathing, feeding and keeping warm, particularly if they are very small. They may need extra medical care to treat any infections or other problems. 

You can read more about premature birth here: and here

At Kingston we have a neonatal unit for babies that need extra support. You can read about the unit here:

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