Being a first time mum, I was naturally a bit clueless as to how the old giving birth process works. I had (wrongly) assumed that if you went into labour, you just casually sauntered up to the closest hospital to you at the time, and by the miracle of the NHS there would be midwives on hand to deliver your baby, pronto.
Instead, where you give birth largely depends on where you’ve been booked for your ante natal appointments and checks, which is mostly based on your home location and GP practice. In this respect, some women then don’t have a choice as to where they give birth – there’s simply one labour ward in one hospital anywhere near (or sometimes not so near) where they live.
I’m fortunate enough that where I live allows a choice for where I choose to have my baby, providing my pregnancy remains normal and healthy. All being well, I have the choice between a community maternity unit literally 2 minutes from my home, or a consultant led unit in a city hospital 45 minutes away.
CMU v consultant led unit
Of course, it seems so perfectly practical that I would choose to have my baby at the hospital so close to my home. After all, it’s where both myself and my other half were born too. However, back in that day (nearly 30 years ago – ouch!) the hospital was a state of the art (for its time) fully-operational hospital, with community maternity unit, labour ward, A&E and more clinics than you could think possible. Nowadays, it’s been reduced to a shell of its former self, with a community maternity unit consisting of just 3 birth rooms.
This doesn’t bother me, and in fact, all of the suites are absolutely lovely. Truth be told, I’m not-so-secretly dying to try out one of their mega en-suite baths. What does bother me is that with such a small unit comes a couple of disadvantages in comparison with a consultant led unit, or even a community unit within a larger hospital. Firstly, if anything were to go wrong during birth, I’d be punted into an ambulance and sent to the city hospital 45 minutes away. There are no paediatricians and no emergency doctors on call in my local hospital, so if I was suddenly in need of an emergency caesarean or little baby boy needed special assistance after birth, we would have to be transported before we could be properly treated. And with health, time can make all the difference.
Secondly, and not so life-threateningly, the fact there are only 3 rooms worries me a bit. I know the number of women giving birth in that maternity unit is pretty low, but there is the possibility that I will be in and out in a flash to make way for the next woman to use the suite. It’s a bit of a selfish reason, for both my recovering body and my terrified mind, but their aim for a 6 hour (or less) turnaround is nothing short of petrifying for this first time mum-to-be.
Positives of giving birth in a CMU
Quite apart from the lovely baths mentioned, there are various positives for electing to give birth in the local CMU. Convenience plays a big factor – not only do I live within walking distance, my parents and OH’s parents are minutes away too.
As I’ve been visiting that hospital for parent education classes, and have been attending ante-natal appointments at the GP surgery which is on the hospital premises, the chances are, I’ve already met the midwife who will deliver my baby – at least once. The reassurance and comfort of a friendly face can only be a good thing in a time of infinite pain!
On top of this is the added benefit that it’s a quiet unit, which means more freedom to move around and invite visitors. More to the point, the other half won’t be turned away at 8pm because that’s when visiting hours end. At the city hospital, he would be expected to leave at 8, and be called to come back when baby is about to make his grand entrance. Which other half would likely miss, as he’d be driving 45 minutes to get to the hospital – or worse still, looking for parking in the minefield of a car park. Then he would have to leave immediately after the birth, not allowed to return until after 8am.
Which leads on to another point – at the city hospital you can only park your car for 4 hours max, before having to move it. So if little bump decided that labour would take longer than that, or if other half wanted to spend time with baby during his first minutes, he may not be able to due to the inconvenience of having to leave to find alternative parking. A very first world problem, but annoying all the same.
So where should I give birth?
To be honest, I’m still weighing up the pros and cons, but the conveniently local option is sounding the best at the moment. My next ante-natal appointment is there next week, and is a routine criteria check. So maybe they will have the final say in whether I can give birth there or not, and take the choice away from me if they feel there would be too much risk. I’m still open to feedback and advice from anyone who has either had that choice to make or who has experienced either or both CMU and consultant led births as I know this is not a decision to be taken lightly, so answers on a postcard please!