Giving birth is a life changing experience, and getting the birth of your choice can be vitally important in making you feel empowered, relaxed, and ready for a positive birth experience. Our Birth choices directory is here to help you make an informed choice and prepare for birth. Helping you through the maze of maternity services, this website could be a starting point: www.birthchoiceuk.com .
In the last decade there has been an increased awareness of more natural birthing options, in favour of less medical intervention during labour. In Stockport and the High Peak you have the option to give birth in one of 2 Birth Centres - Stockport Birth Centre at Stepping Hill Hospital or Corbar Birth Centre in Buxton. Visit www.stockport.nhs.uk/birth . These are NHS facilities available to women who have normal pregnancies, whether they live in Stockport or not.
If you are considering a home birth you will be interested to know that a recent study published in the British Obstetrics and Gynaecology Journal showed that home-birth is no more dangerous than hospital birth, for "normal" pregnancies. Meeting other mothers who have had a home birth is a good way of finding out whether this could be an option for you. The Manchester home birth support group www.homebirth-manchester.org holds regular meetings, and welcomes pregnant women, and their partners to come along and share parents' experiences - call 0845 330 6339.
Preparing for birth during pregnancy
Locally, you can attend an Active Birth Workshop run by Stockport midwives. If you live in Stockport, these will be organised by your team midwives. If you live outside Stockport, but are coming to stepping Hill to have your baby, Stockport midwives run active Birth workshops in the training suite of John Lewis store in Cheadle and you will be invited to come along to one of these.
In addition to this, why not sign up for Janet Balaska's free e-journal at www.activebirthcentre.com ? It's great way of learning about your developing baby, and preparing you for birth, giving you bite-size information via regular e-mails throughout the different stages of your pregnancy. Janet Balaska is the founder and director of the Active Birth Centre in North London and is also author of several best-selling birth books.
Making your choice
Where should I have my baby? Ask yourself what is important to you when it comes to the birth of your baby. Do you want to be prepared for all medical eventualities? Or is a calm, relaxing environment, and use of alternative pain relief methods more important to you? We have compiled a list of some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different birth options, to help you make an informed decision about where to have your baby.
The Hospital Birth
Think about whether the atmosphere and ambience of a hospital suits you. If you feel more secure with the backdrop of emergency medicine, a hospital birth might be for you. Here, an emergency caesarean section can be performed within minutes. Many maternity wards have intensive care units for newborns, ensuring that your baby receives optimum care if necessary. Of course it is an advantage if your chosen hospital is nearby. But if you have several hospitals to choose from, do take advantage of a guided tour of the delivery Suite and maternity wards, which most hospitals offer on a regular basis. If you would like to use a pool for labour and / or giving birth, ask if the hospital or Birth Centre has a pool. If so, how many, and it is also a good idea to ask how often the pool is used and how many of the midwives are confident with water birth.
Ask how many women on average are staying on the ward and enquire about the option of a private room. There may be a charge for this, but it is well worth it, if you prefer privacy once your baby has been born. It is also important to ask about the bathroom facilities and how many mothers are sharing these. By opting for a private room you usually have access to an en-suite toilet and shower room. If you are planning to breastfeed, ask about the help available from midwives to establish feeding.
Think about whether you want to be with your family after the birth, as there may be restrictions on visiting times, and usually dads are only allowed to stay for a certain amount of time after the birth, if the baby was born after visiting times have ended. If you are not staying in a private room, how will you feel about other mothers visitors, and noise levels on the ward?
Hospitals are usually staffed by midwives, and obstetricians, who work shifts, which means that there could be a shift change during your labour. If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of having to get used to a new team of midwives once you are in labour, you may want to look into hiring an independent midwife, who is licensed to practice at the hospital of your choice.
A hospital birth might suit you if you:
- feel more secure knowing you are in a hospital in case of a medical emergency.
- are considering the use of medical pain relief i.e. epidural etc.
- prefer to have medical staff present in the first few days after the birth.
- expect more than one child.
- experience contractions long before the baby's due date.
- suffer from placenta previa, a condition where the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix.
- suffer from gestational diabetes , heart, or kidney conditions.
- your pregnancy is a high risk pregnancy.
- Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport Consultant Led
- Macclesfield District General Hospital, Macclesfield Consultant Led
- Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester Consultant Led
- St Mary's Hospital for Women and Children (Manchester), Manchester
If you and your baby are healthy, and you have a problem free pregnancy, there is no reason why you should not be able to consider a homebirth. Recent research from the British Obstetrics and Gynaecology Journal showed that home-birth is no more dangerous than hospital birth, for "normal" pregnancies. You can tell your GP that you would like a homebirth, but you do not have to, and you do not need your family doctors' permission to have a homebirth. You can discuss it with your supervisor of midwives for your area at your first appointment. You will usually be looked after by a team of community, and your care depends on your individual circumstances.
Make a birth plan and discuss it with your midwife. Your midwife can help you to decide on what you need to prepare for your homebirth, but it will also be up to you to decide what is important to you, and how you want your birth experience to be. Think about different ways of relaxation, options of pain relief, use of water etc. If you already have a child, or children, decide who will look after them, and how much you would like them to see of the birth. Reading other mothers or families homebirth stories is a good way of finding out how others have prepared and experienced the birth of their baby at home. Speaking to mothers who have had a homebirth, is a good opportunity to find out more. Many mums and dads do not mind answering questions you might have, and homebirth support group meetings are usually held in the evening at homes across Manchester or Cheshire, so both parents can attend.
0845 330 6339
Some women prefer to know exactly who will attend their homebirth, and therefore might want the support of a fully qualified independent midwife, who will provide all antenatal care, and attend the birth at your home. Independent midwives have usually attended many homebirths, are very experienced, and fully supportive of homebirth. The fees vary and many midwives are booked up fairly quickly, so make sure you find a midwife you like early enough.
A home birth might suit you if you:
- You and your baby are healthy.
- You are comfortable with the medical support of your midwife.
- Prefer the privacy of your own home.
- You want to be in charge of your birth as much as possible.
- You prefer not to use pain relief such as an epidural.
The Birth Centre
(written by Debbie Garrod, Consultant Midwife, Stepping Hill Hospital)
Stockport Birth Centre at Stepping Hill
In October 2005, Stockport Birth Centre opened on the 3rd Floor of the Women's Unit at Stepping Hill Hospital. The Birth Centre offers a relaxed, home-from-home environment where women who are experiencing normal pregnancies can give birth. Since opening, hundreds of babies have been born in the Birth Centre, with a high proportion of women having normal, problem-free births.
Our philosophy at the Birth Centre
Being pregnant and giving birth to a baby is a very powerful emotional experience. Our philosophy of care is to provide a woman and family-centred service. We aim to enable you to make informed decisions, based on your individual needs. We will provide you with evidence-based information, to enable choice of place of birth, control over the birth process and continuity of care, as well as practical and emotional support during labour and birth. We want to help you to have a normal birth, wherever possible.
Answers to some questions you may have….
Who can give birth in the Birth Centre?
If you are fit and well before pregnancy starts, remain healthy during pregnancy, and experience no major problems, you can book to have your baby in the Birth Centre. If this is not your first pregnancy, and you have had certain serious problems in previous pregnancies, you may be advised to book to have your baby on Delivery Suite.
The Birth Centre is suitable for women who start in labour by themselves, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, and who do not need labour to be induced for any reason. In other words, the Birth Centre offers a service for women who could opt to have their babies at home, but who choose to come into hospital.
But I don't live in Stockport- can I still use the Birth Centre?
Wherever you live, you can choose to come to Stepping Hill to have your baby, either in the Birth Centre or on Delivery Suite. You can also attend an 'Active Birth Day' - a one-day workshop which helps you and your partner / labour supporter get ready for giving birth using 'self-help' techniques such as position, relaxation and massage.
What about my antenatal care if I live outside Stockport?
You will have a 'booking appointment' in our Antenatal Clinic and will be offered scans at 12 and 20 weeks. In between, midwives in your local area will provide your antenatal care. These same midwives will visit you at home after the baby is born, so pregnancy is a good time to get to know them.
Who will look after me on the Birth Centre?
Care in the Birth Centre is provided by Midwives, supported by midwifery assistants and other members of the team. It is staffed by a small core group of midwives who are based in the Birth Centre, and by Team Midwives who take it in turns to work on the Birth Centre.
What happens when I go into labour?
You phone Triage and tell the Midwife what has been happening (see 'Contact us' at the end of this article for the number).
After talking to the Midwife about what has been happening, she may suggest you stay at home for a bit longer. If you live in Stockport, she may arrange for a midwife to come and see you at home ( and if all is going well - you then have the option of staying at home to give birth - or coming in to the Birth Centre). Or you may be asked to come straight into the Birth Centre.
What about pain relief in labour?
In the Birth Centre, we will support you to manage your contractions in a whole range of ways. We'll encourage you to be active and to move around, trying different positions. There are mats, balls and beanbags available to help you find the best position at different stages in your labour.
We can offer back massage, and the Midwife can also show your partner or labour companion how to do simple massage. We will support you with using relaxation and calm breathing, and we'll suggest you use water in the form of hot water bottles, the bath, shower and (when in the Birth Centre) one of the birthing pools. The pool can be used during labour to relieve pain and promote relaxation; you can also choose to give birth in the pool.
We know that environment is very important in helping you to manage your labour. The Birth Centre offers a peaceful, relaxed place, where you can, for example, bring your own music and aromatherapy oils to help create the sort of atmosphere you want to give birth in.
You can use a TENs machine whilst at home, and when you come in to the Birth Centre. Entonox ('gas and air') is also available. We can offer an injection of pethidine if required, but you need to be aware that pethidine is primarily a muscle relaxant, with some pain relieving properties. It is very rarely used at a homebirth, and we encourage women in the Birth Centre to try all the other forms of pain relief before offering pethidine.
If you decide in labour that you would like an epidural, you would transfer to Delivery Suite on the 1st floor. You will usually then be cared for by the midwives based there.
When will I go home?
Some women go home soon after birth, for example after a few hours. You also have the option of staying in hospital for a day or two if this is your preference.
Your baby will have a full examination in the first 24 - 48 hours after birth. This can in the Birth Centre or at home, and will be carried out by a midwife or doctor.
What happens if I have problems in labour?
If problems arise during labour, the role of the midwife is to refer you to a doctor. If you are in labour on the Birth Centre and there are problems, you will be seen by a doctor and you may then transfer to Delivery Suite. You will then usually stay on Delivery Suite for the rest of your labour and to give birth.
Need more information? Please get in touch with:
Consultant Midwife / Supervisor of Midwives /NCT teacher
We also welcome your feedback about your experience of having your baby at the Birth Centre - talk to us, write to us, or contact us via e-mail.
Stockport Birth Centre
3rd Floor Women's Unit
Stepping Hill Hospital
Stockport SK2 7JE
Triage: (0161) 419 5551
Birth Centre telephone no: (0161) 419 5285
Need support in making your choice?
Supervisors of Midwives are experienced midwives who have had extra training and who can offer support to women who are experiencing problems in, for example, arranging a home birth. There are Supervisors working in all local maternity services and they can be contacted via the hospital switch board.