Mellow Mummy: Maternity Matters – The Choice Of Where To Give Birth : Taking life as it comes...

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Maternity Matters – The Choice Of Where To Give Birth

On Wednesday the 27th of Juanuary, Women's Hour on Radio 4 discussed the 2007 'Maternity Matters' government promises on the provision of maternity care. Among these promises was the guarantee that by the end of 2009, every woman in Britain would be granted the choice of where to give birth – in a hospital obstetric unit, at a midwife-led Birth Centre, or in their own home.

From what I've read, I think that I am one of the lucky few who was really offered this choice. In the local authority where I live, I could choose from our local midwife-led Birth Centre (its no more than 3 miles from my house), a home birth with the midwives from said Birth Centre, and a choice of three major hospitals, two of which had Birth Centres on-site. Admittedly, no-one ever actively discussed the options open to me, or 'sold' me the concepts of a home birth or of a midwife-led Birth Centre but I did my own research and made my own decision. Its a shame though, I imagine that there are a large number of mums who have no idea that they can give birth anywhere other than a hospital.

You may ask then, if I had the freedom to choose a midwife-led birth, why did I opt for the one hospital that didn't have a Birth Centre? I chose, very early in my pregnancy, to give birth at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. It is a good 20 minute drive away from home and in a different county to where I live but there were a number of reasons why it was my number one choice:-

  • My husband, his siblings, nieces, nephews, and many of my friends were all born there so it couldn't be that bad!
  • Despite being the farthest hospital away from home, it is actually the easiest to get to (but the most evil to park at... have you ever had to do a 103-point turn to get out of a parking space?)
  • It has, for a long time, been the hospital where our families have been treated so I knew I could trust the level of care there.
  • My local Birth Centre is directly opposite Ascot racecourse and Lara was due during Royal Ascot week... I didn't fancy getting stuck in race-going traffic at my hour of need.

During my pregnancy I visited the hospital to view the maternity provisions and I'm sure that if I hadn't liked what I'd seen then I would have changed my mind, but from my experiences of my local Birth Centre, I knew that the hospital I had chosen would offer a more professional level of care. I had all of my antenatal and postnatal care (other than scans) at my local Birth Centre and was continually appalled by the level of service, the lack of communication, the lack of urgency and the miserable décor that gave the place an air of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest'. Due to a lack of midwives, I spent several hours waiting for appointments before the birth and, in those first few weeks after the birth, I never once received a home visit from a midwife – I had to go to them each time, and even then I experienced cancelled appointments and delays. I was not impressed.

It was important to me that the hospital I chose had a birthing pool available. I wanted to try for a natural, drug-free birth (but, being the mellow mummy, I wasn't obsessed about it). As far as was possible, I managed my labour in the pool without drugs but then, due to complications ( a very stressed baby and a very shattered mummy) I left the pool, got hooked up on the drugs and ended up giving birth on an operating table. Lara was delivered by forceps following a failed ventouse.

Now, my NCT lessons had me believe that by choosing to give birth in an obstetric unit, it was inevitable that I would have an assisted delivery. To settle my mind, I have spoken to my local midwives since the birth who assure me that if I had been in the birthing pool at my local Birth Centre when the complications has happened, then I would have had to be rushed by ambulance to one of the larger hospitals as they wouldn't have been able to manage the delivery without medical intervention.

So, given my experiences, will I make a different decision next time round? Will I feel confident enough to opt for a Birth Centre? Or even a home delivery? Err... no. I was more than happy with my birth experience. The level of care was great, the facilities were outstanding (although I did have to wait for a delivery suite, and then again for a bed on the maternity ward), and I still feel like they did everything they could to help me attempt an intervention-free birth. To top it off, I now feel even more conscious that if I were to need assistance then all the medical practitioners would be there, on-site, with no need for an ambulance trip.

So, did you have a choice of where to give birth? Were you happy with your choice? Would you make the same decision again? I'd be very interested to read your comments below.
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