Walsall Healthcare’s home birth service has been re-introduced with community midwives helping to welcome a hat trick of new arrivals within one week alone!
The service was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic as community midwives were asked to support colleagues within Walsall Manor Hospital, where most mums give birth.
Divisional Director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Sexual Health, Carla Jones-Charles said: “We want to encourage mums to use our services – in hospital or our home birth service as appropriate. We are happy to offer a home birth service to those who are low risk and have made an informed choice about where they want to give birth, weighing up all the factors involved.”
Matron for Community, MLU and Outpatients, Laura Parsons, said: “We’re really excited as a team to be able to offer this service again and to promote it to the women who wanted it to be reinstated.
“We had a flurry of women who wanted home births and our community midwives are supporting them to do that.
“We don’t want to discourage any mums from coming into hospital, but we’re happy to offer a home birth service. Any woman interested in having a home birth should contact their community midwife and our team leaders will happily see them at home and support them in their choices.”
Home birth rates in Walsall have been very low – usually eight or 10 out of the 3,600-3,700 births a year at the Manor, so the sudden surge is a pleasant surprise, says Laura.
“The fact we will have had eight in a couple of months is amazing – a real achievement,” she added. “In fact we had three in one week, which we’ve never had before – and two of them were within 12 hours. So it was lovely, and a massive achievement for us.”
First of the three to arrive was baby boy Jax Leo-James Reid on 22 March. Jax, who weighed 7lb 2oz, is son to painter and decorator Amy, 30 and her partner, carpenter Robert, 31, both of Walsall. Their new arrival joins Amy’s 12 year old daughter Amelia.
Next to be born at home was Lunay Joan who arrived at 9.40am on 25 March, scaling 7lbs 13oz. Lunay Service is the fourth daughter of Semarri Woollery, 39, from Walsall, joining Tiarnah, 19, Imarni, 14, three-year-old Azhea-Angel and brother Horatio, 10. Partner Lawrence Service, 46, a cleaner and maintenance worker, was present at the birth along with two community midwives.
Finally, Chantel Bibb, 37, gave birth at home in Willenhall to Gaia, who weighed 7lbs 1.5oz, also on 25 March, at 9.04pm. Chantel and husband Barry, 40, also have son Theo, aged two.
“The midwives are really supportive of home births as long as it’s safe for everyone,” said Chantel, a diet consultant. She took part in a three-week course at Walsall’s Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) on hypnobirthing – a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques – before having Gaia.
Chantel wanted delayed cord clamping which allows beneficial blood cells to get through the cord to the baby. That extra boost of iron helps babies transition to this new haemoglobin in the first weeks of life.
“They were great – really considerate. The midwives had read my birth plan so they knew about the delayed cord clamping and they waited until Gaia had finished feeding until doing any checks on me. They were so relaxed – everything was a discussion and a request.”
Laura is more than happy to provide any reassurance to women about having their babies at home.
“We’ve had some challenging conversations with women asking things like ‘Are you OK to care for us at home?’, so I want to reassure people that the community midwives are really experienced at caring for home births,” added Laura.
“We work in partnership with West Midlands Ambulance Service so if we need assistance, we’ve got that service as well.”
Women can inform their midwife at any point in their pregnancy that they prefer a home birth, but ideally this should be when they first book at the start of their pregnancy. This is so women can be supported throughout the pregnancy journey with this choice and conversations can be on-going.
Women can also change their mind at any stage after choosing a home birth.
Laura added: “Women are offered a birth planning meeting at around 34 weeks, so it would be beneficial for us to discuss or revisit their chose of ‘place of birth’ again at this point. This may be home birth or birth in hospital.”