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Where can i give birth in the North East - Birth Place Choices

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Something which I get asked about often is what the different options are for places to give birth in the North East; in this post I'm going to be sharing the different options we have from Newcastle Upon Tyne right the way up to Berwick Upon Tweed. From Midwifery led units to Hospital delivery suites as well as the benefits, considerations and statistics for each place.


The places we'll be looking on this post are:

Midwifery Led Units:

Hexham General Hospital

Hillcrest Maternity Unit - Alnwick

Bright Horizons Midwifery Unit - Berwick Upon Tweed


Hospital Maternity Units in the North East:

R.V.I (Royal Victoria Infirmary) Delivery Suite and Birthing Centre, Newcastle

N.S.C.E.H - Northumbria Special Care Emergency Hospital Maternity Unit, Cramlington


And, of course - Home Birth!






Hexham Midwifery Led Unit (within Hexham General)

Corbridge Rd, Hexham NE46 1QJ, 01434 655351 or 01434 655352

Visiting Times: Open visiting but please avoid protected meal times


The midwifery led unit at Hexham is located on the 1st floor of the general hospital.


Stats:

4 birthing rooms

1 pool

Women who birth here each month: Between 1-5

Water birth rate: circa 50%

Active labour aids - YES


The unit is what is called a 'free standing' or 'stand alone' midwifery led unit.


Free standing Midwife led units (or MLUs) are maternity units which are NOT attached to/within a hospital, but instead have their own separate building, and are - as the name suggests- run by midwives, rather than consultants. If you’re not sure if your area has a midwife led unit, ask your midwife or give them a call.

Benefits: The benefits of giving birth in a midwife led unit are numerous. A huge consideration if you’re wanting to have a natural vaginal birth, is that midwives (particularly midwives who work in an MLU setting) are seasoned pro’s when it comes to natural birth - because ‘emergency’ births are transferred or begin in hospital settings. So the midwives in these stand alone units know exactly how to encourage & support vaginal birth.

Statistically speaking NICE (National Institute for health Care Excellence) states that giving birth at a freestanding midwifery led unit is a safer option than hospital because

the rate of interventions, such as forceps, epidural and episiotomy is much lower at the MLUs. The findings (from the Birthplace study 2011) also show that negative outcomes for both Mum & baby are no higher at a MLU than a consultant led ward in hospital.

MLUs are usually much less densely ‘populated’ than hospitals, meaning you are much more likely to have access to a birthing pool, and be in a much quieter setting. Gas & air will be freely available at all MLUs.

Considerations: Your care providers may discourage you from using your local Midwifery Led Unit if you are over 35 years old, have had serious complications in a previous birth, or have had bleeding after 24 weeks or have high blood pressure. If you would really rather birth at your MLU but have been discouraged you can always contact your local Head of Midwifery and ask for a second opinion, or contact Birthrights - an organisation dedicated to offering support and advice.

Stronger pain relief drugs, such as Epidurals are not available at freestanding MLUs. Should you desire these drugs, or need any ‘emergency’ treatment, you would need to transfer to your nearest hospital.




South Rd, Alnwick NE66 2NS, 01665 626732

Visiting times: 2-3pm and 6:30-7:30pm. Outside of these hours visiting is restricted to birthing partners only


Statistics:

1 birthing room

1 pool

Women who birth here each month: Between 1-5

Water birth rate: Circa 50%

Active Labour Aids - Yes

Atmospheric lighting - Yes


Like Hexham, Hillcrest is a stand alone Midwifery led unit. The benefits and considerations are the same as above.



Infirmary Square , Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15 1LT, 01289 356622

Visiting Times: 2pm-3pm and 6:30pm-7:30pm. Outside of these hours visiting is restricted to birthing partners only.


Statistics:

1 birthing room

1 pool

Women who birth here each month: Between 1-5

Water birth rate: Circa 50%

Active Labour Aids - Yes

Atmospheric lighting - Yes


Like Hexham and Hillcrest - the maternity unit at Berwick is a stand alone Midwifery led unit. The benefits and considerations are the same as above.



Home birth


Absolutely everyone in the UK has the legal right to birth at home. Even if you are 'high risk', or have been told your home birth would be out of guidelines, even if you have to have a meeting about it. Everyone is allowed to birth their baby where they choose. If you are struggling to 'get' your home birth, then come along to one of my courses & learn about using your voice & birth rights during pregnancy and birth.


You don't need a big house, or a birth pool to have a home birth. During every home birth you get 2 dedicated NHS midwives at your home, should you wish. You are also legally and morally 'allowed' to birth without NHS midwives should you prefer to have a private midwife or no midwife at all.

Benefits: There are some huge benefits to giving birth at home; the most practical being that you don't have to MOVE anywhere. From the moment your labour begins, you can just nest in, feel comfortable in your familiar surroundings and not have to worry about when to travel to hospital, getting there and not being in ‘established labour’ & either having to go to the labour ward, or go back home.

When we think about the fact that Oxytocin flows when we feel comfortable, relaxed and happy - it makes sense that our bodies will feel more relaxed, oxytocin will flow more & labour will be quicker and less painful at home. Your body will naturally create it’s own painkiller - Endorphins - when you feel relaxed, safe, unobserved and loved. This wonderful cocktail of feeling calm, safe and in a familiar place helps your cervix open up easily, and allows birth to progress with ease.

Gas and Air (Entonox/ Nitrous Oxide) is also an option during a home birth, midwives can either bring this with them, or it will be delivered to your home once you are 38 weeks pregnant.


Your home birth midwife team are experts on assisting at births at home; they know exactly what to watch for, and exactly when to ‘make a move’ to hospital, should this be medically necessary. 12% of second time mums transfer from a home birth to their nearest hospital during labour, and 45% of first time mums make this transfer.


Statistics:


In 2020 The Lancet (A well renowned medical journal) did a study, looking at 50,000 women PLANNING a Home birth Vs low risk women birthing in a Hospital.

It is worth noting that these statistics apply simply by planning on birthing at home, so still apply if the woman then changes her mind about birth place, or is transferred to hospital during labour.


Compared to birthing in a hospital

40% less likely to have an unplanned cesarean

50% less likely to have an Assisted Birth

55% less likely to have an episiotomy

40% less likely to have a severe tear

70% less likely to have an epidural (if transferred in/ changed mind)

30% less likely to have a postnatal haemorrhage

Considerations: The nationally recognised study, The Birthplace study, recommended that Homebirth was JUST as safe as both giving birth in a midwifery led unit and giving birth in hospital, particularly for SECOND TIME mums.

For first time mothers there is a very small increase in the chance of a baby being born with a serious medical condition, compared to those being born in a MLU or Hospital.

In a midwifery unit or a hospital, a baby born with a serious medical complication might occur in 5 out of every 1,000 births, but this rises to 9 in every 1,000 for home births, for FIRST TIME mothers. So from 99.5% chance of a healthy birth in hospital, to 99.1% of having a healthy delivery at home for FIRST TIME mums.





NSCEH - Maternity at Northumbria, Cramlington

Northumbria Wy, Cramlington NE23 6NZ, 0191 607 2318,


Statistics (correct Aug 2022)

14 Labour rooms, all ensuite with a bed for your partner

2 Birth pools

Pregnancy assessment unit - First place for labour to be assessed before going to your birth room (Unless you are being induced, then you head straight to a room)

C section rate: 36% (Northumbria Trust don't disclose how many were planned Vs Unplanned)

Induction Rate: 46%

Assisted delivery rate: 12%

Water birth rate: 2%

Atmospheric lighting & Active Labour aids - Yes


Benefits: The midwifery units within a hospital can be a great option for ‘low risk’ pregnancies, which for some reason are unable to birth in a freestanding Midwife led unit. Birth pools, and some of the benefits of midwife led care can be accessed in these ‘units’.


An additional benefit Cramlington's NSCEH maternity department has, is that there is no 'labour ward' (usually this is the case, and 'high risk' and 'low risk' women are separated. NSCEH seems to very much operate along a 'midwifery led unless a consultant is needed' philosophy. Something which has been shown in birth research to improve labour outcomes.


Considerations:


Northumbira's induction rates are amongst the highest in the country, with almost half the women here being induced. If induction is something you wish to avoid, it may be worth baring this in mind. Likewise the water birth rate at the maternity unit is very low. If birthing in the water is important to you, it may be worth considering an option which makes this statistically more likely (like home or a midwifery led unit), or of course being prepared to advocate for your wishes more strongly.

You are statistically more likely to have more interventions such as episiotomy and epidural in a hospital environment.


The NHS Choices website states:

“The proportions of women who received epidural or spinal analgesia were lower in non-obstetric units than in a hospital. For example, 30% of women attending a hospital, 8% of women with a home birth, 11% in women attending a free-standing midwife unit and 15% of women attending an alongside midwifery unit received epidural or spinal analgesia.”

According to research (Outcome of elective home births: A series of 1146 cases. Mehl-Madrona, L.E., Peterson, G., et al. J. Reproductive Med., 1977 (5), 281-290.), the rate of infections for babies born in hospital is 4 times that of babies born at home.


Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 4LP, 0191 233 6161

Visiting Times: Your birth partner or support person can visit between 8am and 8pm each day. A second visitor and siblings are welcome to visit between 10am – 12noon and 3pm – 5pm


Statistics:

12 birthing rooms

5 pools

An assessment room

Hot meals which can be provided at any time of day or night

An en-suite bathroom in each birthing room (some have baths with showers overhead, others have showers only)

Free TV with Freeview in each birthing room

Birthing balls, floor mats, birthing couches and birthing stools

Dimmer switches and air conditioning in each birthing room

A pull out double sofa bed for postnatal stays


Women who birth here each month: 12% of RVI maternity admissions

Water birth rate: 4%



Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP, 0191 282 5119


Statistics:

12 birthing rooms - one of which is a pool room. Seven are en-suite

6 induction beds arranged as one 2-bedded bay and one 4-bedded bay

A 5-bedded Recovery area

A 4-bedded Enhanced Recovery area

2 maternity theatres on the Delivery Suite

Access to further theatres if required

Further shared toilets, showers and baths available

Free TV with Freeview in each birthing room except the pool room

Birthing balls, floor mats and birthing stools available on request


Unplanned C section rate: 19%

Planned C sections: 17%

Induction Rate: 44%

Assisted delivery rate: 12%

Water birth rate: 4% (Includes the Birthing Centre Above)


Benefits:

Some women may feel more confident and re-assured when birthing within a hospital setting, finding the idea that doctors are nearby, should they or their baby be within the small percentage of those who experience a serious birth complication. For women who have pre-diagnosed or known medical conditions such as pre- eclampsia, type 1 diabetes, premature labour, heart conditions, reduced fetal movement, additional fetal considerations (amongst other rarer conditions) - the consultant led department of a hospital is a re-assuring option. In a consultant led unit you will have full access to medical pain relief options, such as epidurals & pethidine.

Considerations: You are statistically more likely to have more interventions such as episiotomy and epidural in a hospital environment. The NHS Choices website states: “The proportions of women who received epidural or spinal analgesia were lower in non-obstetric units than in a hospital. For example, 30% of women attending a hospital, 8% of women with a home birth, 11% in women attending a free-standing midwife unit and 15% of women attending an alongside midwifery unit received epidural or spinal analgesia.” According to research (Outcome of elective home births: A series of 1146 cases. Mehl-Madrona, L.E., Peterson, G., et al. J. Reproductive Med., 1977 (5), 281-290.), the rate of infections for babies born in hospital is 4 times that of babies born at home.



So there we have the main options available to you for giving birth in the North East. If you'd like to learn more about these venues, or the benefits and considerations of birth places in general, as well as learning about how deeply your birth environment can impact your labour (such as how long your labour is, how painful labour is, how safe it is..) why not join one of my in person Hypnobirthing classes.


Held across 2 full days, at my Farmhouse retreat in rural Northumberland - approach your baby's birth feeling confident, clued up and in control.


Love from the Farmhouse,


Jessica x


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