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‘Pop up’ birthing centre offers new choice to pregnant women

A nationally pioneering ‘pop up’ birthing unit based in Wirral’s Seacombe Children’s Centre will provide enhanced choice to expecting mothers in the area.

Containing facilities for women to give birth, the community unit will offer women a safe alternative to hospital birth in a more family-friendly environment closer to home.

Based at the local children’s centre, the unit will encourage women with a low risk of complications (something established clinically during discussions between a woman and her midwife) to give birth in a non-medicalised setting where wrap around services are also available to support families postnatally and beyond.

The new facility will provide key insight into the cultural effectiveness and uptake of more community-focused birthing options. The facility will be run by experienced, highly skilled midwives from Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH), and if successful, could inspire the development of permanent freestanding midwifery led units (FMLUs) across the Cheshire and Merseyside region.

The Seacombe pop up is opening in response to NHS England’s Better Births Report (2016), which identifies that the 87% of women nationally will give birth in a hospital, but only 25% of women would choose that as their first choice. This is backed up by guidance provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which states that freestanding midwifery units are “associated with a higher rate of spontaneous vaginal birth” compared with births in other settings.

Cllr Bernie Mooney, Wirral’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: ‘‘I am really proud that Seacombe children’s centre will be home to the first community-based birthing unit nationally. The unit will provide women with a real choice about where they can give birth safely and comfortably and that is a huge step forward for families in Wirral.’’

Catherine McClennan, Programme Director for the Improving Me Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership (the NHS programme driving the initiative), said: “We have been working with local women and healthcare providers to explore new models of care that provide meaningful choice to families. Our pop up birthing unit based at Seacombe Children’s Centre is the first of its kind nationally, and has been driven by the voice of women. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to lead the way in offering people a more personalised pregnancy journey.”

By supporting women to give birth in a community setting, the unit aims to offer a more relaxed and familiar ‘home from home’ experience. They are also more likely to be looked after by a midwife that has helped them throughout their pregnancy and remain in a private space (with their partner/family welcome to stay with them) throughout the duration of the birth.

Debbie Edwards, Associate Director of Nursing /Head of Midwifery at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “We welcome the opportunity to be involved with the roll out of the Birth Centre, which will make a big difference to the choice that women have regarding their place of birth. The unit will provide women and their families with an optimum birth environment.”

Improving Me is a partnership of 27 NHS organisations across Cheshire and Merseyside aiming to improve the experiences of women and children. The Partnership is one of NHS England’s Vanguard New Care Model initiatives and an Early Adopter for the Better Births recommendations.