Maternity unit can now offer berths for dads
DADS will be able to stay overnight at a Bristol maternity unit when their partners are in labour after a city hospital received almost half a million pounds of government funding.
Southmead Hospital is the recipient of a share of £25 million from the Department of Health to improve and upgrade maternity facilities.
The £475,000 will be used to create two family rooms where partners will be able to stay overnight, a birthing pool for the central delivery suite and more en-suite bathroom facilities for women to use while they are in labour.
As previously reported in The Post the new Cossham Hospital, which opens next week, has rooms in its midwife-led birth centre – for women with uncomplicated pregnancies – where partners can stay overnight.
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Gillian White, assistant general manager for maternity services at North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs both hospitals, said the grant will enable Southmead to provide similar facilities for women, regardless of where they give birth.
The two family rooms, which will be created in the antenatal wards, will mainly be used when women have been induced, so their partners can remain with them but Ms White said they would be set up to be flexible.
She said: "We are thrilled to bits with this funding. It is something we recognise as being a real inequality and are thrilled to be able to offer family rooms at Cossham for women who can choose that. We wanted to make sure there was an equality for women who cannot give birth at Cossham or those who choose an obstetric environment but have the option for family rooms, predominantly for induction.
"We will use it flexibly. It will predominantly be for antenatal care so that partners can stay with their partners when they have been induced but it will also mean that when people need particular support we have got the facility for partners.
"There is lots of research that shows when women are able to be supported by partners pre-birth and through the whole experience, they need less pain relief. Until now, if a woman was induced a partner has had to go home at night."
Ms White said that improvements to bathroom facilities will add to the delivery suite at Southmead, which was built in 1984, when there was a different ethos around giving birth.
"We very much want to promote privacy and dignity during labour if women have access to an en-suite," she said.
"Where we haven't had that women have had to walk across the delivery suite, past staff and other people's partners, and we know that as soon as that happens you are not really able to have the birth experience you want to, as privacy and dignity is compromised."
Providing a birthing pool for the central delivery suite will also enable women who are not suitable for a birth at Cossham or a midwife-led suite at Southmead can benefit from the water, which has been found to reduce the need for pain relief during labour.
Ms White said: "We are so proud of the unit – it is one of the safest in the country and one of the biggest.
"We would always encourage people to promote natural birth and to use the suite at Cossham but some people choose to go to the obstetric environment of the unit and we don't want that to make a difference."
The Department of Health funding will support the work of a £1.5 million fundraising appeal, called Mum's the Word, to improve maternity facilities at Southmead, which will not be moving into the new super hospital.
Ms White said: "This is a huge boost to the Mum's The Word campaign but we need to go ahead with the fundraising for the other areas, such as the family room where new parents, partners and grandparents can meet.
"It is important that we update where we can in the existing estate."