THE Maternity Unit at Grantham Hospital offers ‘low-risk’ pregnant women an alternative to a home birth with a few added extras.
The midwifery-led unit cared for around 100 women last year and, so far in 2012, 55 have been through its doors.
Head of midwifery for United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which runs Grantham, Hazel Harrison said this figure is well short of the 300/400 births per year that would make the unit viable.
She said: “We are not hitting the birth targets. The birth rate is going up generally but we haven’t seen the take-up of ladies using the unit going up.”
Those who do choose to use the unit often opt to give birth in the birthing pool, which can help with pain relief during labour.
Hazel said: “I have to say it’s very magical. A water birth is a natural way for the little one to come into the world.”
But only ‘low-risk’ mothers can give birth at Grantham as there is a safety aspect, which Hazel said should not be ignored. All pregnant women are assessed to see if they fit the criteria.
She said: “It’s a stand-alone unit and it’s quite a way from other units. You are looking at a one-hour transfer rate. It’s just like having a home birth really.
“It’s in a hospital but there’s no medical support around in an emergency.”
This means if something goes wrong, the nearest treatment is at Lincoln, Nottingham or Boston.
She added: “First time births are an unknown quantity, but we have a risk assessment that we use.
“The midwives work in partnership with women and the low-risk ladies are given the choice. We give them the information to make an informed decision about where to birth.”
About 23 per cent of women, who initially look at using the unit, have to be transferred to give birth elsewhere. This often happens before the birth but also afterwards if there are complications.
Hazel said: “We always err on the side of caution. Safety is the priority. At the end of the day we want a healthy mum and a healthy baby.”
But Hazel said that even those assessed as low risk can be put off by the transfer distance to a bigger unit. The maternity unit is currently being reviewed by the Shaping Health for Mid Kesteven Programme Board.
The chief operating officer of the South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is leading a review into the services as part of the shaping health programme, Allan Kitt, said: “There’s nothing to suggest that Grantham Hospital can justify a large obstetric unit.
“The larger units are best to deal with problems as they see them regularly. It’s about encouraging people to use the Grantham unit if they are able to use it.”
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