London: World media may have their eyes glued on St Mary`s Hospital where Kate Middleton`s delivery is imminent, but the Duchess of Cambridge could yet give them the slip by giving birth close to her parents home.
The 31-year-old Duchess, who is thought to have passed her due date, has been staying with her parents in Bucklebury, Berkshire, this week, together with her husband Prince William, who has a period of rest days from his RAF duties.
Aides confirmed that while the Duchess fully intends to have her baby in the private Lindo Wing of St Mary`s, Paddington, a contingency plan for a birth at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where she was born in 1982, remains in place.
If the Duchess goes into labour while she is staying with her parents and her labour progresses more quickly than expected, her doctors could send her to the Royal Berkshire, which is less than half an hour`s drive from Bucklebury, rather than risking the 53-mile trip to London.
It would raise the prospect of the Duchess spending her first night with her baby on a public ward sharing with other mothers, as the hospital does not have a private maternity wing, The Telegraph reported.
A royal source was quoted by the paper as saying: "There are contingencies in place for wherever the Duchess happens to be, and one of them is the Royal Berkshire."
"It is still a possibility that she could give birth there, though that would only be in extremis, as the expectation is that she will go to St Mary`s," the source said.
The couple were said to be "calm" and "relaxed" as they await the arrival of their first child.
Kensington Palace has only ever confirmed that the baby is due in "mid-July", and conflicting reports have put the due date at anything between July 13 and July 19.
The Duchess`s mother Carole has reportedly told friends that she believes the baby will be a Leo, meaning she thinks it will arrive on or after July 23.
The Royal Berkshire Hospital, in the centre of Reading, delivers almost 6,000 babies per year, and offers women the choice of giving birth on the labour ward or in the Rushey midwife-led birth centre, which has four rooms themed on the four seasons.