Frequently asked questions

Where can I have my baby in east Kent?

You can have a home birth or give birth at our hospitals, the William Harvey hospital (Ashford) and the Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother hospital (Margate). Please visit our 'Delivery' section.


What help can I receive during my pregnancy?

Please see our 'Antenatal care' section

What are the visiting time for the labour wards?

In labour we welcome birth partners to stay with you throughout your labour. In order to maintain privacy for you in labour, we recommend no more than two birth partners.

Folkestone and Kingsgate Wards

  • New extended visiting for partners/significant other (one person only) - 24hrs

  • 4pm - 7pm general visiting and own children only

Please note: no other children are permitted in the ward areas and we respectfully request only two visitors for each woman at general visiting.

Can I have my baby in Singleton or St Peter’s MLU?

The MLUs are suitable for healthy women who have experienced a normal pregnancy and are between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant. If you have experienced complications in this pregnancy or in a previous pregnancy you may not be eligible e.g. women who have previously had a caesarean section, women with high blood pressure, and women with a body mass index greater than 35. If you are not sure whether you are suitable please discuss this with your midwife. If you live out of the east Kent area and would like to have your baby with us then please telephone 01233 651868 for Singleton unit and 01843 235100 for St Peter’s and we will arrange a visit to the unit at 36 weeks for suitability.

What is the difference between the MLU and the labour ward?

Singleton MLU is staffed by community midwives, hospital midwives and maternity care assistants. There are no doctors: obstetricians or anaesthetists, working routinely on the unit. Paediatricians may attend the unit to perform well baby checks or in an emergency if necessary. Most women who are fit and well are expected to have their babies normally without the use of epidurals, artificially breaking the waters around the baby or continuous electronic monitoring of the baby’s heart beat. Your baby’s heart beat will be checked regularly using a hand held Doppler (as in the antenatal clinic) during labour.

What should I do if I know I want an epidural for pain relief during labour?

An epidural is not part of normal labour, can only be administered by an anaesthetist and is therefore only available on the traditional labour ward. If you are having your first baby you may not know how you will cope with labour and may be surprised at how well you do with the use of upright positions, water and massage for support. We would recommend that you come to Singleton or St Peter’s and transfer if you feel it is necessary. If this is not your first baby and you would like an epidural in labour, you might find that labour is much quicker this time and an epidural is unnecessary so we would encourage you to attend the MLU in the first instance. If you would feel more confident attending the traditional labour ward ‘just in case’ then this may be the right decision for you. It is important that you feel comfortable with the choice you make.

What happens if there are complications?

Most babies arrive in this world without complications but sometimes unexpected problems can occur in pregnancy or labour. During pregnancy you would be referred to see the consultant obstetrician at the antenatal clinic held weekly in the birth centres. The consultant may be happy for you to continue to have your baby at the birth centre or he/she may advise you to have your baby at one of the consultant–led units at Ashford or Margate. Approximately 20% of women will have changed their booking at the end of pregnancy from a birth centre to a consultant-led unit. The most common reason for this is the pregnancy becoming overdue and the need for labour to be induced.

If a problem occurs during labour, the health and safety of you and your baby are always our top priority. Midwives are skilled in anticipating and recognising complications. If during labour the midwife anticipates a problem you would be transferred, and depending on the situation at the time, in your own transport or by ambulance with a midwife escort to a consultant unit. Approximately one in four women may transfer during labour because they need medical care or to be in a setting where medical help is on hand. More than half of women transferred have a normal birth. Few of these transfers are emergencies but if an emergency does occur, which requires immediate medical attention there may be a delay of up to 50 minutes while you are moved and this could increase the risk to you or your baby. We endeavour to transfer you to the unit of your choice but this may not always be possible. Women expecting their first baby are three times more likely to be transferred than those expecting their second or subsequent babies.

If problems arise with mother or baby after the birth, both mother and baby may need to be transferred by ambulance to another hospital.

How long can I stay in the birth centre after I have had my baby?

You decide the length of your stay with the midwives who will offer individual and professional support following the birth. Most women prefer to go home within twenty four hours of having a baby, but some may prefer to stay in longer to establish breast feeding. If you have had a complicated birth at another hospital, such as caesarean section, it may be possible for you to be transferred back to the birth centre for postnatal care.

When do I have to decide if I want to have my baby in the birth centre?

Community midwives will discuss the options regarding place of birth, initially at the booking visit and at any subsequent antenatal visits. However, you do not have to make any firm decisions until much later in the pregnancy if you wish. It is expected that women who choose to have their babies in the birth centre will confirm their booking at about 36/37 weeks of pregnancy.

What if I change my mind about where to have my baby?

You can change your mind about where you wish to have your baby at any time, even in labour! Whether you wish to change from having your baby in the birth centre to a consultant-led unit, or from a consultant-led unit to the birth centre (as long as there are no complications) you are at liberty to do so. If you let your community midwife know, she will organise the change in your booking.

What if I go into labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy?

If you go into labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy then you would be directed by the birth centre midwife to contact one of the consultant units at Ashford or Margate depending upon your stage of pregnancy.

What else might I need to know?

Doctors do not work at the birth centres and are not available for emergency care but paediatricians are available during office hours to offer well baby checks on all babies born at the centre.

Epidurals are not available for pain relief during labour in a birth centre but we know that it is uncommon for a woman choosing to have her baby in a birth centre to request one.

Further information

  • For information about Canterbury birth centre and Dover family birthing unit, please see the 'Where to have your baby' section.

  • View our Your birth, Your choice information leaflet

What should I bring with me for the delivery?

For you:

  • Your maternity records

  • An old nightie or cotton shirt to wear when giving birth

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Two flannels, soap, toiletries and shampoo

  • Two bath towels

  • Hairbrush/comb, slides or band to tie back long hair

  • Lipsalve or Vaseline (your lips can get really dry when using gas and air)

  • Slippers and dressing gown

  • Old underwear (disposable pants an advantage) - about 6 pairs

  • Ice cubes in flask or chilled water

  • Entertainment - books, magazines, etc.

  • You can bring a radio/cd/mp3 player with you

  • At least two nighties or pyjamas

  • If planning to breastfeed, two nursing bras. If not, two supportive bras.

  • Two packets maternity size sanitary towels

  • Breast pads

  • Tissues.

  • Camera

For your partner:

  • Sandwiches or biscuits.

For your baby:

  • Nappies

  • Cotton wool

  • Vests

  • All in one sleep suits   

  • Outfit with vest and cardigan

  • Hat

  • Mittens

  • Socks

  • Shawl or blanket.      

  • Baby car seat - this is a legal requirement.