Many people don’t realise that women can still give birth at the DGH – and midwives are battling to change this misconception.
Eastbourne Midwifery Unit (EMU) has been going for five years, ever since maternity services were moved to Hastings Conquest in 2013.
The Herald visited the unit to see what it is like.
Marie Foreman, midwifery matron, said, “I think the message we have a birthing centre here has been lost in the politics. The message was ‘everything’s gone’. We have really struggled to put it across that not everything has left. It has been such a battle. It’s a really successful centre that’s proven to be safe.”
When asked about what it’s like being a midwife, Marie said, “It’s a stressful job, a demanding job, you have to have a certain level of resilience to do it for a long time, but this is a really lovely place to work, you have the time to spend with the women, we give them really good one to one care. We are not rushed all the time.”
The unit has 16 midwives, two birthing rooms, and also provides antenatal, postnatal, and neonatal care. In 2016 266 women gave birth in EMU and in 2017 this increased to 281. But Marie believes it has the capacity for 500 births a year and is hoping to raise awareness of the unit to help more mothers.
She said, “All the midwives here are very experienced and comfortable treating women, and they are also high risk trained.”
Only women who have a high risk pregnancy have to go to Conquest, she explained, “We risk assess continuously through pregnancy. In labour things don’t tend to go wrong as an emergency, things tend to be gradual. We always want the woman to be in the safest place.”
And what’s the experience like for mothers who have had their children there?
Danielle Saunders, who had Noah, now 10-months-old, at EMU, said, “It was amazing. The team were really lovely. The whole environment is really calming and clean, which is important. It’s something you notice.
The 27-year-old mother of two from Hailsham said, “I felt more in control, more relaxed. They were really calm and let you get on with it, they were just checking you were okay. Everyone I dealt with was so nice, when you go back in for check ups they remember you. You aren’t a number you are a person to them.
“I couldn’t have done it without them, it made the experience so much more calming than it would have been.”
The unit has modern equipment such as a huge birthing bath – where 52 per cent of women choose to give birth and 72 per cent of mums use after their first child.
And consultant midwife Nicky Mason explained a new technique which will be available at the Unit soon called Hypnobirthing, a form of self-hynosis. She said, “It’s a positive approach to embracing labour and birth, understanding your body and working with it. It’s often very quiet.”
Nicky, who has been doing her job for 26 years, said, “It’s always a privilege, each birth is unique and special. It does feel very intimate here, it’s a family experience.
“We are open for business. We’d love more women to come here. For women with healthy pregnancies the outcomes are as good as in the hospital which is a powerful message. Three of the midwives gave birth here themselves, in December 2016.”
From the Eastbourne Midwifery Unit the message is loud and clear: we’re here, and we’re more than ready to help bring the town’s babies into the world. To find out more visit the unit’s Facebook page, Eastbourne Midwifery Unit - EMU.