They are places where birth balls, water pools and attentive midwives help women have their baby in a calm atmosphere without doctors intervening medically in the process of delivery.
But NHS chiefs have sparked controversy by shutting eight birth centres in England, prompting criticism that pregnant women are being denied the choice of place of birth that all have been promised.
The wave of closures has resulted partly from more women choosing to give birth in obstetric units in hospital, where doctors are in charge, rather than in birth centres, where midwives are the only staff. It is also linked to the shift toward older motherhood, the rise in maternal obesity, the drive to reduce stillbirths and a shortage of midwives.
Full Story: The Guardian, 11 February 2019