DECIDING where to give birth to your baby is an important decision for any expectant mum.

For parents who have never had a child before, they may assume a doctor-led labour ward is the only option.

Bolton midwifery chiefs want to encourage more women experiencing a low-risk pregnancy to consider giving birth on a midwife-led unit or even at home.

Midwives working on the Royal Bolton Hospital’s birth suite say it is place where women can feel “empowered”.

About 1,000 babies are born in the birth suite every year — about 20 per cent of all babies born in Bolton.

The suite is made up of five spacious separate rooms big enough to accommodate a birthing pool, bed and ensuite.

Annabel Nicholas, birth suite manager, said: “We try to make it feel like a home-from-home here. We aim to create a really peaceful environment for every woman and baby.

“You could call it an ‘oasis of calm’. Midwife-led units are about offering one-to-one care. Research has shown that continuous support from a midwife leads to a more positive and safe birthing experience.

“It’s about trusting the process and trusting the midwives.”

New draft guidelines from NICE — the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence — say more women should consider giving birth either at home or in midwife-led unit, provided they are healthy and have had a “straight-forward” pregnancy.

The watchdog currently urges caution if a home birth or delivery in a midwife-led unit is planned.

Now NICE suggests women who give birth in a midwife-led unit often have a more “positive” experience.

The 2011 Birthplace Study similarly supports healthy women with straightforward pregnancies who choose to give birth in a birth centre.

It highlights that women are more likely to have a “normal” birth and less likely to have medical interventions.

In Bolton the maternity unit is “co-located” meaning there is a midwife-led and doctor-led or obstetric unit in the same building.

The main difference between the two is that a woman on an obstetric unit is of a higher risk and is more likely to need medical intervention. This is why they give birth on a hospital bed.

A woman in the birth suite has more freedom to move around their room, spend some or all of their labour in a birthing pool and have their partner to stay in the same room if they are there over night.

Annabel says increasing numbers of women are curious about the different birthing options thanks to popular television shows such as Call the Midwife and One Born Every Minute.

“I think programmes like that have really raised the profile of midwives. People are more interested in giving birth and where they can give birth,” explained Annabel.

“That can only be a good thing because we want to give women as many options as possible and raise the profile of those options. A big part of the attraction for giving birth at the Royal Bolton is that it’s co-located. If a woman is worried about something going wrong, the obstetric unit is in the same building.“ Sue Anderton, head of midwifery at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, added: “It’s about a woman’s choice. Our birth suite is not appropriate for all women but they should all be well informed.

“The term ‘midwife’ literally means ‘with woman’ and we believe many women can have a positive experience on the birthing suite.

“That’s not to say women have a lesser experience on an obstetric ward, we just want people to know about all of the options.”