County Hospital FMBU
We know that having a baby is one of the most important events in your life. The Freestanding Midwifery Birth Unit (FMBU) at County Hospital aims to offer you a place in which you can feel secure, relaxed and have peace of mind. There is also the facility to have support from the midwives on the unit prior to and after the birth of your baby.
FMBU is a homely environment run by experienced senior midwives, along with maternity support workers. This midwife-led environment is ideal for women expecting a straightforward birth and who want a less medically focused experience.
Having your baby in FMBU does carry some risks that you must be comfortable with. While the midwives there have 24-hour telephone access to specialist doctors if problems arise during pregnancy or the birth, there are no consultant obstetricians, anaesthetists or neonatologists on the County Hospital site.
This means that while having your baby in an FMBU is as safe as giving birth at home, if you do experience complications during labour, you may need to be transferred to a consultant-led centre to receive care from obstetricians. This will mean a transfer to Royal Stoke University Hospital, where there are doctors available to care for you.
If you live closer to Stafford but are having your baby in the consultant-led unit or the midwife birth centre at the Royal Stoke University Hospital, you can still have all your antenatal and postnatal care from County Hospital.
Antenatal and postnatal care for low to high-risk pregnancies is available at County Hospital or from community clinics in Stafford, Stone and surrounding areas. The County Hospital service includes:
Routine ultrasound scanning
Maternity assessment unit
Early pregnancy unit
As all the midwives working at the County Hospital are senior and experienced, they will make every effort to ensure that, should your risk status change during your antenatal care or during labour, you will be transferred to the consultant unit as quickly as possible. This is because there are no obstetricians at the County site to provide care in labour, should complications arise. Should you require an urgent transfer to a consultant-led unit, an ambulance will take you to Royal Stoke (on rare occasions this may be to a different hospital). You will always be accompanied by a midwife during this process.
Should you or your baby require ambulance transfer to Royal Stoke, it is anticipated that the quickest time this can be done is 47 minutes in emergency situations. In less urgent cases, the transfer time can be significantly longer. External factors, such as traffic and road works, will impact on the transfer time. You will always be accompanied by a midwife and if you are in labour, your birth partner will be asked to follow separately in transport arranged by them. If your baby requires transfer they will be escorted with a midwife in an ambulance. You will be transferred in a separate ambulance accompanied by either a midwife or maternity support worker to be reunited with your baby.
The risk of being transferred while giving birth in the FMBU is no greater and no less than if you choose to have your baby at home. The midwives will care for you in exactly the same way as they would if you choose to birth at home. The national average transfer rate of women from FMBUs to obstetric units is 9-13 per cent for women who have had one or more babies and 36-40 per cent for women who have never had a baby. Source: Birthplace in England Programme
The Birthplace in England Programme says:
"Giving birth is generally very safe for healthy women with a straightforward ('low-risk') pregnancy. 'Adverse outcomes' for babies are rare regardless of where mothers plan to give birth, occurring overall, in just 4 to 5 births in every 1,000. These adverse outcomes are serious or potentially serious events, but thankfully they are rare."
You will be encouraged to mobilise during your labour and the midwives will support you with relaxation and breathing techniques. Birthing balls, floor mats and fully adjustable beds are available to help you find the most comfortable position at each stage of labour and delivery in upright positions is promoted. The following methods of pain relief are available:
- Entonox (gas and air)
- Pethidine (injection)
The choice of a water birth is also available on the unit. The use of warm water for labour and birth has been practiced for centuries as it can aid relaxation and ease pain.
It provides a calm and gentle transition for the baby and can increase a woman's overall satisfaction with the experience of having a baby.
In the FMBU midwives are unable to provide an epidural for pain relief. If an epidural is something you wish to consider, please discuss this with your midwife as it will be necessary to deliver in an obstetric unit.
You are very welcome to visit the centre and talk to the midwives there before making your decision. You can do this by contacting the FMBU directly on 01785 230059.
The Birthplace study cannot prove with absolute certainty that there are no differences in safety between the settings but overall, it found that the proportion of babies with an adverse outcome was similar in births planned in midwifery units (both alongside and freestanding) compared with births planned in obstetric units.
For women who did not have complications when they presented for care in labour, outcomes were almost identical in births planned in midwifery-led units and obstetric units (3.1 adverse perinatal outcomes per 1,000 births for births planned in an obstetric unit, compared with 3.2 per 1,000 births in freestanding midwifery units and 3.4 per 1,000 births in alongside midwifery units).
Midwifery-led units were also safe for the mother and women who planned birth in a midwifery unit were significantly more likely to have a 'normal birth', i.e. without medical interventions. They were less likely to have their baby delivered by caesarean section, forceps or ventouse (vacuum). For example, more than three quarters of all women in the planned home and midwifery unit groups had a 'normal birth' without medical interventions, compared with 58 per cent of women in the obstetric unit group (the latter group of course includes higher risk women).