Hartlepool birthing centre could help reduce unnecessary c-sections

The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool.

A leading university professor says midwifery units like the one in Hartlepool are the best option for low risk mums and babies.

Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor in midwifery at the University of Nottingham, was invited along to speak about his research at Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee.

Crucially, they are safe, if not safer, for low risk pregnancies

Dr Denis Walsh

Dr Walsh said midwifery units could hold the key to reducing the number of unnecessary Caesarean sections being carried out.

The units, such as the Birthing Centre in The University Hospital of Hartlepool, are led purely by midwives and provide a less clinical environment for mums to give birth in.

He said about 35% of pregnant women, those who are at low risk, should be giving birth in units such as these, but currently only around 15% are.

However, he said there is strong evidence to show they significantly reduce the number of Caesarean births, which is much better for the new mums.

Dr Walsh says in the UK around 25% of births are by Caesarean, which is 10% higher than the World Health Organisation recommends.

He said: “A lot of women are having Caesarean sections who don’t need them.”

He said about the midwifery units: “Crucially they are as safe, if not safer, for low risk pregnancies.

“It is safe for babies and safer for mothers.

“Some of them are more like spa facilities. They are looking to create a home-like birthing space.”

Also, he said research has shown that midwifery units, have no trouble in recruiting and retaining midwives, because they are a less stressful environment to work in.

Although a lot of the units are being under-used, some, such as the birthing centre in Burnley, is thriving, because it is led by an obstetrics champion who is passionate about the use of them.

Coun Ray Martin-Wells, said following the presentation from Dr Walsh, they would look more closely at the idea of obstetrics champions, as well as contacting Burnley health authorities for advice on best practice.

Hartlepool’s midwife-led Birthing Centre opened in June 2008 after a £5million refurbishment.

It was part of a shake-up of maternity services which saw the transfer of consultant-led maternity services to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.

But since then town births have dropped from 452 in 2009 to just 34 in 2015 and only nine in 2016.