We offer several choices for women of where to give birth. If you are fit and healthy with an uncomplicated pregnancy you may want to consider a home birth or having a baby at one of our midwife-led units. Our consultant led units at the William Harvey and the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospitals offer specialised obstetric care for labour and birth for those women with complications as well as for those women who would prefer to give birth where there is immediate access to specialist services. If you have complications you can still choose which hospital to have your baby in although most women choose the hospital which is nearest to them.
The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford has more than 4,000 births annually. The obstetricians and midwives work hard as a team to keep birth normal and intervene only when necessary. Anaesthetists provide a twenty four hour epidural service for those women who prefer this for pain relief as well as for women who require anaesthesia for operative and assisted births.
The hospital has paediatricians who staff a level three Neonatal Intensive Care unit which means that the unit accepts transfers of both pregnant women and newly delivered babies from across the South East and also from London. Babies who are born prematurely after 24 weeks and those who are sick are cared for in this unit.
The Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate has approximately 2,800 births a year. It too offers specialist obstetric care for women with complications and anaesthetists providing the same service as that at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. The Special Care Baby Unit takes babies born after 28 weeks. Those babies born earlier or who are very sick are transferred to William Harvey Hospital.
In both hospitals following birth, mother and baby are transferred and cared for on the postnatal wards. Most women are discharged home twenty four hours after the birth. Once at home the community midwife will visit until the baby is ten days old or if needed until the baby is four weeks old.
These midwife led units are located within the hospitals at Ashford and Margate. They are located close to the consultant led ‘traditional’ labour wards. These units are run by midwives to encourage and support normal birth. They both have two birth pools offering the use of water for pain relief and/or a water birth. There are facilities to support more upright positions in labour as well as space to move around e.g. birth balls, mats, and wall bars. Gas and air and pethidine are available for pain relief if needed but not an epidural. If you would like/need an epidural for pain relief then you would be transferred to the labour ward.
After you have had your baby you will be offered postnatal care up to 24 hours after the birth although it is expected that most women will go home within 6 to 12 hours after the birth of their babies. There are facilities for women and their families to make drinks and snacks. All rooms are ensuite. Partners are welcome and encouraged to stay with you if you would like.
Can I have my baby in Singleton or St Peter’s MLU?
The MLUs are suitable for healthy women who have experienced a normal pregnancy and are between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant. If you have experienced complications in this pregnancy or in a previous pregnancy you may not be eligible e.g. women who have previously had a caesarean section, women with high blood pressure, and women with a body mass index greater than 35. If you are not sure whether you are suitable please discuss this with your midwife. If you live out of the east Kent area and would like to have your baby with us then please telephone 01233 651868 for Singleton unit and 01843 235100 for St Peter’s and we will arrange a visit to the unit at 36 weeks for suitability.
What is the difference between the MLU and the labour ward?
Singleton MLU is staffed by community midwives, hospital midwives and maternity care assistants. There are no doctors: obstetricians or anaesthetists, working routinely on the unit. Paediatricians may attend the unit to perform well baby checks or in an emergency if necessary. Most women who are fit and well are expected to have their babies normally without the use of epidurals, artificially breaking the waters around the baby or continuous electronic monitoring of the baby’s heart beat. Your baby’s heart beat will be checked regularly using a hand held Doppler (as in the antenatal clinic) during labour.
What should I do if I know I want an epidural for pain relief during labour?
An epidural is not part of normal labour, can only be administered by an anaesthetist and is therefore only available on the traditional labour ward. If you are having your first baby you may not know how you will cope with labour and may be surprised at how well you do with the use of upright positions, water and massage for support. We would recommend that you come to Singleton or St Peter’s and transfer if you feel it is necessary. If this is not your first baby and you would like an epidural in labour, you might find that labour is much quicker this time and an epidural is unnecessary so we would encourage you to attend the MLU in the first instance. If you would feel more confident attending the traditional labour ward ‘just in case’ then this may be the right decision for you. It is important that you feel comfortable with the choice you make.