Browsed by
Month: January 2017

Maidstone Birth Centre

Maidstone Birth Centre

Got my hands on the Maidstone Birth Centre Five Year Report 2011-2016 yesterday and it makes for impressive reading! It’ll soon be on the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s Website, but here’s a summary.

These stats are very pertinent for local women as they understand and make choices about where to have their babies.

Maidstone Birth Centre opened five years ago and there have been more than 2,000 births there since. This equates to around 8% per year of all babies born within the Trust, which is significantly above the national average for births outside the main hospital environment.

First up – know this: The Birth Place Study in England (see my previous post here) found that, for low risk women, birth is as safe for babies in a birth centre as it is in hospital, with the added benefit of reduced intervention for mums – lower rates of caesarean birth, lower rates of assisted birth with forceps/ventouse and lower rates of episiotomy.

To be clear on episiotomies (because this is one of the issues that most mums on my courses are really concerned about): The Birth Place Study reported that ‘low risk’ women would expect to have a rate of episiotomy at 28% for first time mothers and 7.4% for subsequent births ….. not at Maidstone Birth Centre they don’t! The Birth Centre reports a really low episiotomy rate of 4% for first time mothers and 0.6% for subsequent births.

Maidstone mode of birth

77% of first time mothers starting labour at the Birth Centre had a normal delivery (compared with only 65.7% expected from the Birth Place Study) 7% required a caesarean birth (compared with 13%) and 15% an instrumental birth (compared with 21.3%)

Maidstone Birth Centre’s showing way better stats than the national expected average.

Outcomes are also excellent for women having their second or subsequent birth – 98% had a straightforward birth.

To put these stats into context, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicate that similar women giving birth in a hospital setting are 4 times more like to have a caesarean and 3 times more likely to have birth with either forceps or ventouse.

Research has shown that a non-clinical birth environment can enormously effect a woman’s birth experience by helping reduce fear and anxiety.

If a problem occurs during labour, it may be necessary for a woman to be transferred to hospital by ambulance along with her midwife. Overall transfer rates for women are 20%, women report this process as being straightforward and many choose to return to the Birth Centre for their postnatal care. That figure may seem quite high, but 2 things to bear in mind – midwives aren’t stupid and they don’t take risks and also a significant number of women transferred will go on to have a straightforward labour anyway – the fact that they chose to and did start their labour in a birth centre has an impact.

The Centre also provides breastfeeding support, a 24 hour help line and drop-in facility, and complementary therapies for labour – aromatherapy, reflexology, hypnobirthing, acupuncture.

You also have the choice of Crowborough Birth Centre. The support there is amazing also and women love it. It’s become part of Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, so the two Birth Centre teams are working together. I don’t have actual figures for there, but I’ll endeavor to get them and report back. But, from the findings of the Birth Place Study, it’s safe to say that birthing there will also profoundly improve your birth experience.

Worth being aware also, that if you don’t clearly fit into a ‘low risk’ or ‘high risk’ category your specific situation can be discussed on an individual basis by a multi professional team – so always ask if there’s any confusion.

We’re fortunate to have two wonderful Birth Centres with teams providing high standards of evidence based care, ensuring that women have a real choice about where to give birth.

There’s lots more info. & stats in the actual report, keep an eye here to read it.

But, in the meantime do go along and visit the both Birth Centres, look around, talk to the midwives there … so that when you choose where to have your baby you really understand your choices and are making an informed decision

I’ve just focused here on the things that I hear from the parents on my courses and at Positive Birth Movement gatherings are worrying them – they want straightforward births, without episiotomies on the whole and yet most of them choose to give birth at the hospital, with the reason stated as being ‘because it’s nearest’. I’m sure that there are other reasons why they’re choosing to birth there, but I urge them and you to give it a lot of thought.

You’ve read the evidence and the stats – if you’re married, think about how much time you spent researching and visiting wedding venues, meeting caterers, florists, how much time you spent debating what you’d where etc. Or, think about a big holiday you’ve planned ….. where you birth your baby deserves as much (or, dare I say, more) consideration folks!

Plus – Maidstone Birth Centre is bloody LUSH! It’s like a boutique hotel! Double beds in postnatal rooms so partners can stay comfortably! You won’t wanna leave!

As always I’d love your comments and if you’ve got any questions or want more info, just email me – if I don’t know the answer, I certainly know someone who does, and I’m really happy to source info/support just for you!

Dear Doctor,

Dear Doctor,

I’ve become quite adept at taking a deep breath and smiling politely at doctors in my social circle, those who attend my courses & those I meet professionally when discussing birth. With friends who are doctors it’s easier to have a reasoned debate – there’s a mutual respect and friendship there already. In the other areas it’s tricky – it’s often not appropriate to get into a heated debate, and, depending on who I’m engaging with, it’s sometimes clear that that is how it will go, if the individual concerned takes offence at being questioned or, heaven forbid, corrected! So, here’s my open letter …..

Dear Doctor,

First of all I’d like to acknowledge how fortunate we are to have such highly qualified professionals available to care for women when needed. Lives are saved and women have relatively safe options around pain-relief during labour which can be a positive choice for them. On the whole you are kind and respectful to women in your care.

What do you think about people like me? Honestly?

I’d like you to understand that just because I’m a Hypnobirthing Practitioner & NCT Teacher, that doesn’t mean I’m encouraging parents to march into the delivery suite waving a laminated birth plan bellowing “I’ve been on a Course, I know my rights!” whilst disregarding out of hand your opinions/suggestions. I’m not in the business of telling people what they should do or think, of bringing about misguided feelings of guilt, or of bandying about unfounded information. I’m also not solely focused on natural/normal birth without intervention. I provide evidence-based information for parents & encourage them to ask questions so that they are able to make their own INFORMED choices about what’s right for them and their baby (without information no ‘choice’ is being made) so that they don’t come away from birth saying “what the hell happened there?!”

My aim is to support parents to have a positive, confident pregnancy and birth experience, because I KNOW that with the right preparation and knowledge they absolutely CAN whether they’re planning a caesarean birth, home birth or anything in between. It’s important to me to point these things out, because honestly, about 90% of doctors I meet immediately make the assumption that I’m some hippy, natural-birth militant.

I totally ‘get’ that you and I may have completely different experiences of birth. I’m guessing that although you may have experienced more women in labour than I have, these will have been in an obstetric environment. As a doula, I have experienced birth in different settings – home, hospital, birth centre. I know that the environment a woman births in and the support she has will make a difference on the management of her labour as well as her own perceptions of pain and coping. I know that what’s going on in her head WILL influence the way labour progresses and her experience of it.

A doctor on one of my courses once said to me “my view of birth is completely skewed – I never see normal birth”. At a conference I attended this sentiment was echoed in a talk given by Amali Lokugamage Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and author. She explained that obstetricians are continually immersed in crisis medicine rather than physiology: a large part of their workload involves complicated cases, and medical students have little education or experience of truly undisturbed birth. I recognize that these influences may affect doctors’ subconscious minds – the emotional baggage that’s not visible to us but may, over time, promote an ethos of body-frailty which will can influence how they guide women as to the best management of their pregnancy and birth: a primal response to avoid litigation. Quite frankly, physiological birth may not be at the forefront of their minds.

There are risks and benefits associated with any type of birth and these need to be weighed up according to the individual woman, baby and situation – not just hospital protocols.

I know that you will encounter many parents who feel scared and vulnerable and WANT to be told what to do, who will unquestioningly do whatever’s suggested by healthcare professionals. However, there are plenty of parents who do have questions, who are really informed about the benefits and risks of a straightforward/normal/natural birth and also those associated with some interventions.

Medical professionals need to be very careful in their reactions and the way they express their opinions because people listen to them, they believe them. I have so many examples of doctors and even occasionally midwives NOT taking care in this area but here are 2 examples that spring to mind, because with each of these there was definitely an element of attempting to put ME ‘in my place’, albeit indirectly:

Another doctor on one of my NCT courses years ago made it very clear that he had no belief in women’s bodies to birth their babies. He would challenge everything that didn’t fit with his very limited viewpoint. He scoffed at the thought that any parent would question his opinion, he was, in fact, thoroughly unpleasant ….BUT he was a DOCTOR! … consequently there were some in the group who took every one of his non-evidence-based opinions as gospel, even when he announced to the group of expectant parents the completely untrue statement that he had “literally seen vaginas exploding” …. How dare he? It’s that kind of shit that women hear all around them in the horror stories they’re bombarded with – they shouldn’t be hearing it from a doctor. It’s that kind of shit that’s creating the fear and anxiety in parents that’s not helpful, not healthy and has the potential to impact negatively on how they approach and experience pregnancy, labour and birth.

Last month I was at a meeting with healthcare professionals when one of the doctors – looking straight at me as if I personally was responsible, said “ what do we do about women coming up with ridiculous questions just because they’ve been on stupid natural birth websites? I haven’t got time for this nonsense and it’s happening more and more!” …. Erm, I’m sorry? Are you suggesting that women don’t do their research, seek information and respectfully question suggestions you make? … again, a doctor shouldn’t be spouting that kind of shit. It’s totally unacceptable.

Worth pointing out that my immediate response to both of these docs was fairly scathing, leaving them red-faced and cross, but, hey ho. The way I see it is, if someone’s happy to take the risk of projecting in that way, they’ll have to just suck-up any reaction they receive.

Recently I’ve had quite pleasant discussions with 2 doctors who were genuinely gob-smacked at the non-biased, evidence-based information given to their NCT group from their teacher. It wasn’t what they were expecting – one of them said “before the course I thought I was going to need to be continually correcting the NCT teacher”. Now, putting aside the fact that this enforces my opinion that some doctors have a fairly inflated opinion of themselves, my overriding question is “why?” …. Why would a doctor assume that a qualified birth educator would just be spouting rubbish?

And, I guess I’ve come full circle and that’s the point of me writing this open letter.

Maybe nobody will read this, it doesn’t matter. The idea that I’m some airy-fairy, lentil muncher, promising women orgasmic births is one that most doctors I come across have to varying degrees. It bugs me and I’m bored of it, quite frankly. It’s done me good to get it off my chest and down in writing.

If you have managed to wade through this to the end, I’d enjoy hearing your comments.