… yeah, I know it’s not swanky! But here’s why it should be a major player in your consideration of where to have your baby:
My blog about Maidstone BC was based on their report and had lots of stats. Crowborough’s stats will be collated at the end of April so I’ll update then. Here, I’m going to talk about other really, really important stuff for you to consider when choosing where to have your baby.
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.
The Trust’s own data mirrors these findings – 89% of women starting labour at the Birth Centre had a normal birth .
Writing this has reminded me that I really should do a blog about the role of hormones in labour & birth and how the environment the birthing woman is in and the support around her has a massive impact on those hormones and on how labour progresses, because everything about Crowborough Birth Centre is going to encourage oxytocin and keep adrenaline at bay.
Crowborough BC is pretty much on our doorstep, it took me about 15 mins door to door, INCLUDING PARKING!…. I live in central TW and I can get to the Hospital in about 10 mins on a very good day, during rush hour, (err, that’s almost every hour in TW) I’d allow 30 mins.
But, the parking – let’s go back to the parking BECAUSE this is a cause of much anxiety in partners on my courses …. We know the affect of adrenaline on the labouring woman and we know that it’s catching. So, ideally, I’d like all partners to be able to calmly drive into the car park, take their pick of parking slots, glide into one right next to the building and then serenely escort the labouring woman into the building with zero stress … that ain’t happening at Pembury Hospital unless you’re extremely fortunate. But, is IS at Crowborough Birth Centre and parking’s free.
So, you’ve parked up, and walked the few steps to the Birth Centre, through the doors and you’re inside where all is peaceful … that’s right hushed and tranquil. Again, I can’t help but compare, because this stuff MATTERS … Pembury Hospital Main Reception – like a chimpanzee’s tea party in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, am I right?
I’m absolutely not criticising, it’s a massive hospital, it can be no other way. But we all know of women who’ve been labouring at home, arrived at hospital only to find that their contractions have petered out…leaving your warm, safe, private home, getting in the car, getting stuck in traffic, struggling to find a parking spot, and then making your way through a huge, brightly lit, buzzing reception area, pausing for each contraction (so you’re unlikely to be able to just nip through swiftly!) whilst on display to god knows how many people …. all that IS going to have an impact on how you feel, how your partner feels and therefore on labour.
Anyway, back to Crowborough Birth Centre (and breathe). It’s quiet and peaceful and welcoming. So, so welcoming …. every single person I met smiled, introduced themselves and offered me a cup of tea while I waited. Every. Single. Person. I think I was offered about 5 cups of tea! They were busy, but clearly the ethos is one of taking time and being attentive and kind. And this is something I hear over and over again from women who have been cared for at Crowborough Birth Centre either antenatally, during birth or postnatally. Here are some of the comments I received via social media from mums:
“I just had my little girl here and it was fantastic. Can’t praise it highly enough.” Harriet
“I had my daughter there in September- it was the best decision I made!!! Dark lighting, ready made bath, experienced midwife- just her…our needs the biggest priority and then a big double bed for my other half to stay over with me. Perfect!!” Dot
“All the staff at crowborough are amazing, I’m under their care ATM. friends who have had babies here praise it highly. I unfortunately can’t have this baby there but would recommend ladies with no medical problems to have a look, It is a home from home treatment” Vicki
Women and their partners love it there. I have never, ever heard a criticism of it. Not one.
The care feels more personal. Of course it does – it’s not a huge obstetric unit. There are 2 birthing rooms both with birth pool (plus an extra room that can be used) and a small team of really dedicated midwives and maternity support workers, so the chances are at any point in your care you’re more likely to supported by a midwife you’re familiar with.
All the staff there are experienced, dedicated and believe in women’s ability to give birth and they seem truly invested in working together and with you for a safe and happy birth experience, again I guess that’s a direct result of working in a small team and caring for women they see regularly and get to know.
The whole ethos of the place is welcoming, relaxed and supportive from the moment you walk through the door so that you and your partner feel safe and confident.
‘What about if I need to transfer to hospital?’ is a question I’m frequently asked and I know the thought of this is what can put a woman off – she just wants to be where she’s going to be to birth her baby from the outset, right? But, here’s the thing: (actually a few things) It’s not that big a deal, honestly. Women don’t tend to find it traumatic, they’re always glad they started at the Birth Centre and happy to be transferred if needs be (remember, in almost all cases, this is a decision that will be made way before it’s a medical emergency). It’s a 14 minute journey to Pembury Hospital in an ambulance, her partner has the choice of coming with her or following in the car and the midwife from the Birth Centre who’s caring for her will go with her too. She can come back to the Birth Centre for postnatal care if she started there (she gets priority of those who didn’t). 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 Birth Centre offers the following pain relief options: TENS hire, birthing pool, sterile water injections, gas & air and pethidine. You can have your antenatal care there, booking is from 34 weeks, they are open 24hrs and have a 24hr helpline, 24hr breastfeeding support and postnatal support.
There’s criteria for having your baby here, but even if a woman doesn’t fit the criteria her specific situation can be discussed on an individual basis by a multi professional team – so always ask if there’s any confusion. It’s rarely just a flat ‘no’. The staff at Crowborough do everything they can to facilitate choice for women.
Hypnobirthing courses are available at £200 and these alternate monthly between Crowborough and Maidstone Birth Centres. There are also plans to train midwives there in hypnobirthing. Yay!
You can have a tour of Crowborough BC. They run every Saturday 3-4pm and 4-5pm – just give them a call to book a place.
Also there’s a breastfeeding drop-in on Thursday mornings 10am-midday.
I have to mention the postnatal rooms with double beds so your partner can stay with you and your baby overnight afterwards. That’s right, during those first few precious, bonding, magical, emotive, sometimes overwhelming days of your new life as a family your partner DOESN’T have to squash into a chair or curl up on the floor like a dog to sleep and they won’t be banished & sent home at any point. At Crowborough Birth Centre all three of you will be NURTURED postnatally, which is exactly as it should be.
They have a ‘free’ Visitors Policy – who you want, when you want, as many as you want, with the only restrictions being on non-sibling children. Of course, brothers and sisters of the new baby are welcome.
Now, I have to mention the fact that Crowborough Birth Centre’s been around for a while and some of it looks a little tired and dated. Women often mention the fact that the hospital is all lovely and new and has TVs in every room. If you haven’t had a baby before, I can see why this might might affect your judgement, and you might, having toured the Birth Centre think ‘hmmm, that’s all well and good, but it’s not very SWANKY is it? Bit shabby & old fashioned’. I’m going to stick my neck out here and tell you categorically that interior design and what’s on the telly are two things that you absolutely won’t give a shit about in labour or just after you’ve had your baby.
All the stuff I’ve mentioned above is the stuff you’ll care about and you’ll care about it very, very much, trust me. You’ll want to feel safe, private, peaceful, supported and nurtured and you’ll get all of that in spade-loads at Crowborough Birth Centre.
Crowborough are having an Open Day on the 24th March 10am-2pm to celebrate a year with the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and also 90 years of maternity services at Crowborough so do go and support them