What are your choices for where to give birth in London? Sally J. Hall takes a look at the best central London NHS and private hospitals.
There are many reasons to be glad about living in London. Great restaurants, theatres and cinemas on every corner, shopping to suit all tastes – and some of the best maternity units in the country.
Though where you live might dictate your choice of maternity unit, these are the best places to give birth in Central London, whether you’re going private or NHS. From the Royal London Hospital to the Portland, we take a look at what’s out there – and more importantly, what is worth paying for. We also take a look inside the maternity unit at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
You have a choice of Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital or St Mary’s Hospital and you can choose to have your baby at home, a birth centre or in hospital. They offer a full range of services from midwifery-led to high-risk care. Queen Charlotte’s is renowned for foetal medicine and boasts one of the largest neonatal intensive care units in the country. The labour ward has two theatres.
Best For: The private Lindo Wing, where The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth, offers private en-suite or deluxe rooms room, full hotel facilities, breastfeeding, changing and bathing advice.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
On the NHS labour wards, you can opt for midwife or Consultant-led care or you can choose a home birth. There are also two post-natal wards to recover in. The facilities include a birthing pool, which is shared between two birthing rooms. A new midwife-led unit is opening in December with eight fully equipped rooms.
Best for: it’s the only NHS hospital to offer Doulas to give advice and support before and during labour in The Nest, its room for couples. They also have a clinic for talking through your birth experience a few weeks after your baby arrives. See the profile below.
St. Thomas’ Hospital
According to the Care Quality Commission, St Thomas’ offers some of the best maternity services in London and boasts state-of-the-art facilities. Home births are available, as are ward-based births. A full team of maternity staff includes Consultants plus specialist and Consultant midwives. The birth centre has 18 en-suite rooms and two dedicated operating theatres.
Best for: The home-from-home birth centre, which has nine rooms suitable for low-risk pregnancies. Led by midwives and with en-suite facilities, there’s a bed-settee for your partner, a birthing ball, mats, stools and even ropes. There are two birthing pools and a garden room to relax in during early labour.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing
Part of UCH, it offers a range of options for normal births right through to problem pregnancies and babies who need special care. Women can choose from a home birth with community care, or give birth in the midwife-led birth centre or on the labour ward with a highly skilled team of midwives and obstetricians. It has two theatres.
Best for: All rooms in the Birth Centre have en-suite facilities and are brightly designed with controlled lighting. They are also equipped with a birthing ball, mats and birthing stools.
Royal London Hospital
Offering the choice of several levels of care from midwifery to Consultant, the hospital has brand new labour wards. You can also choose to give birth in the birthing centre, plus there are ante-natal classes and courses for Dads. There is great breastfeeding support, too.
Best for: The hospital also offers a specialist team of obstetric physiotherapists who offer treatment for pregnancy-related problems such as back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and aching, numbness or weakness in the fingers).
With a full team of midwives and doctors, you can give birth in the Nightingale birthing centre with its birthing pools and bring along your own music to relax to. The Maternal Assessment Unit helps with problems during labour and there are dedicated theatres and recovery rooms. You can have a community care-led home birth too.
Best for: There are 10 birthing rooms plus a four-bed unit that is used to care for high-risk women. Rooms have a bed, reclining chair, birthing ball and mat, bean bag, stereo and are en-suite. There are two movable, inflatable pools for waterbirths.
The Portland Hospital
Delivers over 2,000 babies a year and has a team of experienced midwives and Consultant Obstetricians, many of whom hold senior positions at London’s top NHS hospitals. Facilities include 24-hour anaesthesia, three theatres, Neonatal Intensive Care and Special Care Baby Unit plus a range of ante- and post-natal classes.
Best for: A range of private en-suite rooms and four exclusive suites, with the option for your partner to stay overnight. There’s also a full hotel service including 24-hour room service.
Profile: Giving Birth at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital
Our experienced maternity team at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital deliver over 5,000 babies each year and our care of women with high risk pregnancies is well respected nationally with a specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to look after premature babies. We have the only NHS Doulas service in the UK. Other tailored support we provide includes a specialist midwife to care for women that have had a previous caesarean section and dedicated care to those with a fear of childbirth. We also offer specialist antenatal classes including Natal Hypnotherapy TM and sessions specifically for fathers-to-be.
We have now widened the choice of birthing options we provide by building a bespoke midwife led unit alongside our other facilities. The unit, opening late December, is a spa-like facility comprising of seven rooms, four with birthing pools and all having mood lighting that can be controlled by mum during birth. A private suite is also available to women accessing our private patients’ service, with their care coordinated by their chosen midwife.
- 16 dedicated consultants, 165 midwives
- 100% of women receive 1:1 care during labour
- 98% of women say they had a good experience at Chelsea and Westminster
- Women can self-refer or be referred to the unit by their GP
Vivien Bell, Head of Midwifery, says: “We respect each mother’s decision when it comes to how they wish to give birth and provide women with a full range of options for their birth plan, from homebirth all the way through to a consultant led delivery. We’ve designed the Midwife -Led Unit to make mum feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
“Women that choose this service will have all of their antenatal and postnatal appointments in the unit, which will provide mothers choosing Chelsea and Westminster Hospital with the continuity of care they want throughout pregnancy.
“It will be the newest and most state-of-the art unit in London and we encourage women to view the environment and meet our experienced midwifery team when it opens later this year.”
For further information about maternity services at Chelsea and Westminster please visit www.chelwest. nhs.uk/maternity or contact Vivien Bell, (Head of Midwifery) by email: Vivien.email@example.com or by calling 020 3315 7900.
Five Things Worth Paying For
Private room in an NHS hospital
If you had a long or tricky birth or had a Caesarean, you may want more privacy and to be able to get the sleep you might miss in a noisy post-natal ward. Private rooms are usually only available if they are not needed for an emergency case, so they can’t be booked. And if you did have a difficult birth, the nurses may want you near their station anyway. The cost is determined by the hospital and varies quite a bit, in the region of £50 -150 per night. Be aware that if an emergency comes in, you may get bumped out.
A private maternity hospital or wing is almost like being in a hotel, expect that you have your baby there, too. You usually choose a package of care and, should you have a problem-free pregnancy with a natural delivery, you’d be paying about £5,500-8,000. A planned Caesarean would be more, as would any emergency procedures for you or your baby. You get great food though, and the chance for your partner to be with you during and after the birth.
One of the most popular new trends in labour, hynobirthing offers mums a range of self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. It is lauded as being the alternative to pain relief and may work well for some women, though not all. Prices vary depending on whether you attend private one-to-one classes with a practitioner or as part of a group but expect to pay between £250 and £400.
Private after-care centres are springing up, such as the Mermaid Maternity Retreat on The King’s Road. After having your baby, you can go to one of these facilities to recover and its hotel-like facilities are enhanced with help and care from experts on breastfeeding, nutrition and baby care from £300.
Doula or Night Nanny
If you’ve had a difficult labour or have older children, a Night Nanny can help you get back to normal. They support you with their hands- on experience of babies and mothers and have an extensive knowledge of sleep patterns, the baby’s and mother’s health and sleep safety. In the first weeks you may feel vulnerable and a good Night Nanny offers gentle guidance without dictating to you. Around £100-200 per night.