New birthing unit for James Paget Hospital in Gorleston

Norfolk's first midwifery-led birthing unit was today officially unveiled by new mum and BBC weather presenter Julie Reinger.

The Dolphin Suite at the James Paget University Hospital has three en-suite rooms, two of which have birthing pools, and is aimed at providing a 'home-from-home' experience for low-risk and normal births with all the reassurance that extra medical assistance is nearby if needed.

The Gorleston hospital's unit will be run by its hospital midwives, as well as community midwives, thanks to extra funding for 11 new midwives from NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

Ms Reinger, who had her son Finn with radio presenter husband Chris Goreham seven months ago, said she could appreciate just how important the suite was.

She said: 'I wasn't quite confident enough to go for a home birth but this is such a lovely alternative. It has a home-from-home feel and if a bit of extra help is required it's just literally down the corridor.'

The 37-year-old added: 'No doubt this unit will produce not only lots of beautiful babies but lots of positive birthing stories and experiences too.'

The unit is due to welcome its first mums-to-be in the next week or so, and Helen Smith, senior midwife co-ordinator, said it was already proving a popular choice for women preparing their birthing plans.

Most Read

She said: 'It means that midwives can really do what they do best. We are experts in normal childbirths and are the right people to look after normal births.'

Midwifery-led birthing units (MBLU) are becoming a popular choice for mums-to-be who do not feel confident enough to opt for a home birth, but want a more relaxing and homely setting than a traditional hospital delivery suite.

The West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds opened its MLBU at the end of last year, and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is planning to open one later this year.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn has no immediate plans to open one, but such a project is currently under consideration.

At James Paget's Dolphin Suite there is a marine theme - the rooms are called Lagoon, Wave and Coral - with pictures and paintings along that theme also due to be put up in the coming weeks.

Emergency equipment has been cleverly hidden inside wall cupboards, so it can be quickly accessed but is not on display.

Mrs Smith said: 'Sometimes seeing the equipment immediately says to a mum that we don't think her body will work and be able to give birth naturally.'

It is hoped that the calming and relaxing nature of the unit wil help to reduce the number of women who need medical interventions.

The birthing pools are like deep baths so that the expectant mum can remain in an upright position, which helps the baby to move into the right position, and they even have lights in the pools, dimmable mood lighting in the suites and iPod docking stations so couples can bring their own music.

None of the three rooms has a bed, and the one without a pool has a special high mattress on the floor to help support women in a sitting position.

There are also no cots in the rooms.

Mrs Smith said: 'We believe very strongly that babies should have the first few hours on skin to skin contact, helping to promote breast feeding, to regulate temperature and giving a women a really good start to being a mother.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter