Royal Derby Hospital maternity ward to get new birthing pool as part of £224,000 makeover
THE first time Helen Wallis gave birth, she was lying in a bed, with a drip attached to her arm and needed medical intervention to have the baby delivered.
The second time, this week, the 31-year-old was "much more relaxed" in a birthing pool, with colourful lights and calming music.
Her experiences were three years apart but it is clear which one was the best.
Helen, of Sundial Walk, Brailsford, said: "It was brilliant giving birth in the pool – just because it was so much more relaxing.
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"It helped me cope with the pain and feel more at home. It was just a better experience overall."
And Helen – who gave birth to her 8lb 3oz baby boy, whom she has not yet named, on Tuesday at 10.15am – added: "I never actually requested to use the pool.
"It was when I came into the hospital I was told it was available and I decided to give it a go.
"Compared to my experience with my older son, Charlie, who's three now, where forceps were needed, I'd say pool every time."
At the moment, there is only one birthing pool at the Royal Hospital's maternity unit.
But the announcement of a £224,000 grant from the Government means Derby's hospitals can buy another one – as part of the staff's bid to create a "more homely" experience there for mums-to-be.
The rest of the cash will be used to create a new birth centre at the hospital, to again create that "home-from-home" feeling.
Every year, about 6,000 women give birth at the hospital – with an average of 17 births each day. Between 1,200 and 1,300 are considered "low-risk" – which means there is a good chance they will have a normal pregnancy and delivery.
Maggie Coombs, senior midwife for low-risk at Derby's hospitals, said these women could choose the option to have their baby at home – but many do not because they feel safer or more comfortable in the hospital.
At the same time, she said they wanted one-to-one care from a midwife in a "private and friendly" setting, without emphasis on medical intervention.
Maggie said: "We put in the bid for the money because we really want to change the emphasis of the environment.
"Just small changes like giving mums their own entrance to the birth centre, which might not sound much, is really significant.
"This is because it makes the whole thing more private and the space is designated for them. We basically want to make our rooms mirror home for our mums-to-be as much as possible."
Maggie – together with Sue Bennion, head of midwifery at Derby's hospitals and Lorna Preston, general manager – put together the bid for funding and submitted it to the Department of Health last year.
The Government invited NHS organisations to apply for a slice of £25 million – with bids approved if it was felt their local parents "wanted the changes".
They asked for the cash to create the centre, called a co-located birth centre; to buy the extra birthing pool and to improve the triage service within the unit.
All applications were judged by a national panel, which included representatives from the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
And Derby's hospitals were one of 100 in the UK to receive a share of the money – getting it to spend on their first two ideas.
Sue said: "I was really, really pleased when I heard our bid had been successful – it honestly made my day.
"We'd already started work on trying to make the department a more relaxing place for our mums, such as getting an artist to paint murals on our walls.
"And the Department of Health seemed to recognise what we'd done and what we are still trying to do.
"Women have been having babies for thousands of years – it should be a lovely, natural and positive experience for them and we want to do what we can to help them have that."
Work to create the birth centre will start soon and is expected to be completed in the next few months.
But it will not involve the hospital being extended or a new building – instead, the part of the department led by midwifes will be divided off, to create a "separate autonomous clinical area".
Parts of the existing entrance, reception and waiting area will be revamped, with four rooms allocated in the centre for women to give birth.
Patients will be able to choose from beds, the pool and mattresses, among other options, on which to give birth.
Floor mats, colourful lights, birthing chairs, music and aromatherapy treatment will also be available to help create an "atmosphere of tranquillity".
Maggie said: "We are doing a lot of these things already but the money will mean we can really de-clinicalise the environment as much as possible."
Meanwhile, the new birthing pool will be used by women which the hospital considers to be "high-risk" – with the possibility of complications developing during their pregnancy and labour.
But the hospital said having access to this pool would perhaps bring "a sense of normality" back into their pregnancy.
Maggie said: "Our goal is very much to increase the use of the birthing pool because evidence suggests it very good for helping women cope with pain.
"So, when mums who are considered high-risk are in labour, this is something which can be more low-key and make it less stressful."
Derby will be among 40 of 100 trusts to get a new birthing pool – and one of eight to create a new midwife-led unit.
Maggie's daughter, Bethan, 17, of Derby Road, Ripley, gave birth to her son, George Elliott, now seven months old, under midwife-led care at the hospital.
She said: "When I came into the hospital, it was quiet, I had my own room I could walk around in and there were no disruptions.
"I never really felt like I was in hospital and I was back home three-and-a-half hours later.
"The midwife came around later on to do all of the checks but it all felt so routine and natural."
Sue said: "Ultimately, this is about giving women more choice when it comes to how they want to give birth.
"The birth rate is going up and we think it is really positive that we can offer this atmosphere of normality – with the option of medical support if mums need it."
Maggie added: "We have about 1,200 to 1,300 women a year who we think would use the centre but we hope it won't be just restricted to them and people will take an interest in having their care led by the midwives."