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North Cumbria hospitals mark International Women’s Day with a ‘thank you’ to Penrith Birthing Centre

L-R: Mags Finnie, midwife, Jane McRitchie, community lead midwife and Andrea Brough, maternity support worker

[N]orth Cumbria’s NHS is celebrating International Women’s Day today by celebrating the work and dedication of staff at Penrith’s Birthing Centre.

The birthing centre, which is one of three maternity units run by North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust (NCUH), is a midwifery-led unit in which local women can give birth. The centre also provides antenatal and postnatal services for pregnant women from around the area.

Midwifery-led units, or birthing centres, are run by midwives without the medical facilities of a hospital. Because many women can give birth without needing medical interventions, the units can be a good choice as an alternative to a hospital birth. The Penrith unit operates 24/7, with regular opening hours from 8.30am-4.30pm, and on-call midwives out-of-hours.

Jane McRitchie, lead community midwife at Penrith Birthing Centre, said: “Our aim is to provide a ‘home from home’ service. This means we make women as comfortable as possible and offer them continuity of care in a local setting, minimising travel to other units. We offer the full maternity package, seeing women from their booking-in appointment at around the seventh week of pregnancy, right up until after they’ve given birth.

“Evidence shows that a healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy who gives birth at a centre such as ours is significantly less likely to need an intervention during labour. All our staff have annual training on how to deal with obstetric emergencies, so our highly skilled and compassionate midwives are fully prepared if things don’t go smoothly.”

The unit was one of the services to receive an overall rating of ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for all five domains in their last inspection. The unit, along with other units in North Cumbria, also performed ‘better than expected’ according a recent CQC survey.

Baby Ava and Hayley Field

Hayley Field, 26, from Calthwaite, near Penrith, gave birth to her daughter Ava at Penrith Birthing Centre in July 2017. She said: “When I went into labour the midwives on-call, Mel Hamer and Jane Hedley, where there to open the unit at 4.40am. I found the unit really clean and welcoming, it has a homely feel to it.

“I had a water birth in the pool and, when pushing, I experienced shoulder dystocia, where my daughter became stuck. Luckily when I turned my body, she became unstuck I successfully gave birth to her, but the midwives had to help her breath properly due to the shoulder dystocia. If it wasn’t for the knowledge and skills of the midwives, this could have been a very different experience for us.”

Hayley, who works as a registered nurse at the Cumberland Infirmary, continued: “I said at the time that ‘thank you’ really isn’t enough, Mel and Jane were fantastic, really helpful and friendly and I’d highly recommend the birthing unit. They really make you feel at home – for example one of the health care assistants made the room tidy and cosy for my six year-old son Finley visiting his little sister for the first time.

“The care from Mel continued when I arrived home, and the breastfeeding support was excellent, I put my ability to feed Ava down to the excellent knowledge of the midwives.

“Because I’m a nurse, I’m used to being on the other side of it, being the one in control and helping the patient, so it was definitely a different experience – however I absolutely trusted the staff who delivered my daughter and really can’t thank them enough.”

Alison Atkinson-Budd, associate director of midwifery, said: “I’m immensely proud of all our midwives at all our sites, however Penrith Birthing Centre is sometimes the lesser talked about of all our units, and I want to use International Women’s Day to give the mums and the midwives the recognition they truly deserve. The CQC reports and ratings for the service speak for themselves, we are very fortunate to have such a great unit.

“In line with our Better Births policy, the Trust is dedicated to giving women the choice for where they can give birth, and all our midwives work with women in their pregnancy to determine where the most appropriate place will be.

“Every birth experience counts, I know that the work of the midwives at Penrith Birthing Centre keep services for women as local as possible, and this is greatly appreciated.”

If you would like to find out more about Penrith Birthing Centre, please contact the team for a chat on 01768 245558.

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