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‘Pop up’ community birthing centre will offer new choice to Wirral women

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A nationally pioneering “pop up” birthing unit based in a children’s centre on the Wirral will provide enhanced choice to expecting mothers in the area, according to those behind it.

The community unit will be open from February 2018 and offer women a safe alternative to hospital birth in a more family-friendly environment closer to home.

“Our pop-up birthing unit based at Seacombe Children’s Centre is the first of its kind nationally2

Catherine McClennan

The unit will encourage women with a low risk of complications to give birth in a non-medicalised setting where wrap around services are also available to support families postnatally and beyond.

By supporting women to give birth in a community setting, the unit aims to offer a more relaxed and familiar “home from home” experience, said the group behind the initiative.

It added that women were also more likely to be looked after by a midwife that has helped them throughout their pregnancy and remain in a private space throughout the duration of the birth.

The initiative is being set up and run by the Improving Me Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership, which includes 27 local organisations.

As the first birthing centre nationally to launch in a multi-purpose community setting, it will provide “key insight into the cultural effectiveness and uptake” of the idea, said the partnership.

The facility will be run by experienced, highly skilled midwives from Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and, if successful, could inspire the development of permanent freestanding midwifery led units across the Cheshire and Merseyside region.

”It will make a big difference to the choice that women have regarding their place of birth”

Debbie Edwards

The Seacombe Children’s Centre pop-up is a response to NHS England’s 2016 Better Births Report, which said 87% of women gave birth in hospital, but only 25% would choose it as their first option.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance also states that freestanding midwifery units are “associated with a higher rate of spontaneous vaginal birth” than those in other settings.

Catherine McClennan, programme director for the Improving Me partnership, said: “We have been working with local women and healthcare providers to explore new models of care that provide meaningful choice to families.

“Our pop-up birthing unit based at Seacombe Children’s Centre is the first of its kind nationally, and has been driven by the voice of women,” she said. “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to lead the way in offering people a more personalised pregnancy journey.”

Debbie Edwards, associate director of nursing and head of midwifery at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “We welcome the opportunity to be involved with the roll out of the birth centre, which will make a big difference to the choice that women have regarding their place of birth.”

Claire Mathews, deputy head of midwifery at NHS England and clinical midwifery lead for Improving Me, said it was an “exciting time” for pregnant women on the Wirral and would empower them to “truly make their own choice as to the place they birth their baby”.

The Improving Me partnership is one of NHS England’s so-called “vanguard” new care model initiatives and an early adopter for the Better Births recommendations.

As one of the 13 acute care collaboration vanguards, it has taken a lead in exploring new ways of working for local women’s and children’s services to improve clinical and financial viability.

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