Blog by Gill Houghton, Consultant Midwife For Normality, 22nd March 2016
Hi All you One Born Fans, my name is Gill, I qualified as a midwife in 1990 and have worked at Liverpool Women's Hospital for over 20 years. Since watching the first series of One Born filmed in our Maternity Unit I have felt an urge to provide a little more information about some of the issues featured. You don’t need to wait long until your next One Born fix, but in the meantime happy reading....
Does where we birth our babies matter?
Wow! What a start to the new series. It never ceases to amaze me how empowering and life changing the experience birthing your baby can be. The expression on Claire’s face after baby Pippa’s birth speaks more than a thousand words.
Thank you to Kirsty, Joanne and Claire and their families for choosing to share their precious and magical stories with us.
Those of you who are eagle eyed, avid One Born watchers may have noticed some differences in the birth rooms our families use and the care the midwives provide. For example, some rooms have less technical equipment and the mums move more easily as they have their baby’s heart beat monitored with a hand held monitor rather than one with wires attached.
This is because some of the women featured receive their care on our Midwife Led Unit (The MLU) and others on our Delivery Suite. One of the questions I get asked frequently is "Who decides where a woman gives birth?" The answer is simple; all women have a choice that includes birth at home with their midwife, birth on a Midwife Unit or birth on the Delivery Suite. Midwives provide information to help the woman make their decision. At Liverpool Women’s we use the Birth Place Decisions Tool to help families understand their options.
Birth on a Delivery Suite is with a full team of doctors and midwives is recommended for women with medical conditions or complications of pregnancy. Joanne gives birth on the Delivery Suite as her labour does not start naturally and her labour is induced (started artificially). Midwife Emma reassures Joanne that this normally takes some time "It’s a slow process this induction, 24 hours" However when Midwife, Ann, explains that Joanne is now into her third day of trying to induce labour it is clear that this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Twenty seven years ago, when I trained to become a midwife, almost all women in the UK gave birth on Delivery Suites with a full team of doctors present. However, over time, women and midwives became concerned that many women were experiencing "interventions" during childbirth such as continuous monitoring, induced labour, epidurals and forceps and caesarean births, when these were not always necessary.
Home-like Midwifery Units and Birth Centres were introduced as an alternative option for women wanting a more natural birth. The Midwife Led Unit at Liverpool opened 20 years ago, last year alone over 2300 babies were born there. Recent research shows that for women with uncomplicated pregnancies planning to give birth in a Midwife Unit reduces the need for medical intervention and is just as safe for their babies. Planning birth on a Delivery Suite is therefore now only recommended for women with high risk pregnancies and those who choose epidural pain relief.
Midwife care at home is also an increasingly popular choice in Liverpool as women experience the delights of an uninterrupted labour and birth with their family and midwife in the privacy of their own home. You are unlikely to see many women birthing at home on One Born however, as one of the main reasons for choosing this option is to maintain a private and relaxed environment and to protect the birth process form observers!!
It was lovely to see Kirsty choose the home from home environment of our Midwife Led Unit. She was encouraged to move around with some fab back massages from Mum and Nan. The lovely, Hana, made everyone feel so welcome "a real family affair" just as Kirsty wanted. It was however also interesting to hear the views of Kirsty’s Mum and Nan when Kirsty was moved from the Midwife Unit to the Delivery Suite. "This looks better" "This is where you have babies" they comment. Reminding us all that a homely environment without visible equipment may not be reassuring to everyone. We all have different expectations, and wouldn’t life be boring if we didn't? Our quest to provide accurate information and real choice of birth place continues...
………..and after transfer to the Delivery Suite
Further information on the choices available in your area is available at Which Birth?
Women can get support in making a decision that feels right for them by contacting any local midwife or by contacting a supervisor of midwives.
In the interest of patient confidentiality I am unable to comment on the individual circumstances or care provided to the families in tonight’s programme. I would however appreciate your thought in the issues raised in tonight’s blog and am happy to provide further information or answer any questions readers may have, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.