You may have seen the television programme Call the Midwife and witnessed the trials and tribulations of community midwives working during the 1950s.
The programme is based on the book written by Jennifer Worth, who worked in the London docklands in the 1950s, and it has certainly caused many mothers and grandmothers to remember their own birth experiences – recalling in detail how the midwife arrived, sometimes on her bicycle, to support them during their home births.
Times have certainly changed since the 1950s when around 35 per cent of women in the UK had their babies at home. Today it’s fewer than four per cent and in our own local Doncaster and Bassetlaw communities there are less than two per cent of women who choose to have their babies at home.
The role of our community midwife remains the same. They are there to support women in their right to choose to have their babies where they feel most comfortable. There is evidence to suggest that, for second or third pregnancies, it’s just as safe for women to deliver their babies at home as it is in hospital. Women who are fit and healthy and who are expecting their first baby can also choose to have a home birth.
These days the midwife is more likely to arrive in a car than on a bicycle, but the same principle applies – they are there to support women giving birth at home and a home birth is a great privilege for any midwife. The following story highlights this privilege and we wanted to share it with you.
Community Midwife Sarah who was on-call was contacted in the early hours of the morning by the Labour Ward. Expectant mum Ivy*, who was booked to have a water birth at home, had contacted the Labour Ward to say that she was having contractions every four minutes and they were getting stronger.
Sarah quickly got ready and arrived at Ivy’s house to be greeted by her husband, Mark*, at the door. He welcomed her in and Sarah entered the living room to find Ivy sat on her birthing ball in the midst of a contraction. Sarah assessed both Ivy and her baby’s wellbeing and confirmed that Ivy was in labour. She then contacted the second midwife on-call to attend and encouraged Ivy to get into the birthing pool.
Ivy managed her contractions very well; soft music was playing in the background and she described feeling very relaxed in the water between contractions. Shortly after the second midwife arrived, Ivy gave birth to a baby boy who they named Ethan. Sarah passed Ethan* immediately to Ivy where he nestled against her warm skin, and found his way to her breast for his first feed. A few minutes later, having heard a baby cry, their daughter, Sophie*, came rushing down the stairs to meet her new baby brother. After making sure that mother and baby were well, both midwives left the new family together to become acquainted.
A homebirth can be a wonderful and beneficial experience for many women and their families. If you would like more information about home births, please contact your community midwife or Debby McKnight, Community Midwifery Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women who choose to breastfeed their babies will receive support from the community midwives and maternity support workers either at home, or at their local children’s centre following birth. Breastfeeding helps women to give their babies loads of health benefits, including protecting them from infections and diseases, and helping to build a strong and emotional bond between mother and baby.
If you would like further information about the maternity services in Doncaster and Bassetlaw, please use the following link at http://www.dbh.nhs.uk/our_services/Womens_and_Maternity/maternity_obstetrics.aspx
*Names have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.