Queen’s Hospital, Romford, to open new low-risk maternity ward

Staff at Queen’s Hospital are hoping a new unit for low-risk women will help the troubled maternity department turn a corner.

The “midwifery-led unit” will offer a more relaxed environment for women to have babies, with features including birthing pools, natural pain relief and more comfortable beds.

A spokesman for Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said: “It’s a homely environment, which encourages natural delivery for low-risk women.

“It’s the next best thing to a home birth – it’s a real home-from-home environment.”

The hospital plans to open the 14-bed ward on January 8, 2013. About 30 women will go through the doors in its first month, increasing to roughly 130 a month once the unit is up to speed – 20 per cent of all deliveries in Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.

Consultant midwife Sue Lovell said: “It’s women’s choice. We wanted to offer different options.

“Some women want to be in a hospital setting but don’t need medical intervention – so this gives the option of having a home-from-home room.”

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The ward will be staffed by four or five experienced midwives at any one time – but any woman who develops complications can be quickly transferred to the doctor-led labour ward downstairs.

Among the attractions for mums-to-be are two pool rooms, as well as portable blow-up pools in the other rooms.

“Water birth is very natural because women don’t need as much pain relief,” said Ms Lovell. “It’s very calming. The water relaxes you and allows you to labour properly.”

Water birth will be among the topics covered in classes offered to women who register their pregnancies at Queen’s.

The comfortable rooms contain real, non-hospital beds to help women feel at home, and their partners will be able to stay with them overnight.

There is also a focus on discharging women quickly, with the option of going home six hours after birth.

“There have been issues with maternity in the past, but things have turned around in the last year and this is part of that,” said the trust spokesman.

The unit is open to all pregnant women in Havering who are assessed as low-risk and due to give birth from early January. For more information, visit the trust’s maternity webpage at http://www.bhrhospitals.nhs.uk/our-services/maternity-services.htm.