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Where can I give birth in Newcastle upon Tyne?

Updated: Feb 22

The question of where to give birth in Newcastle upon Tyne is a great question and one I am glad you are asking.


Did you know you have a right to choose your place of birth?

Even if you are registered with a certain hospital you can choose to swap to somewhere else that better meets your needs or your ethos. You could choose to birth in the Borders General Hospital over the Scottish border if you really wanted to! Or even head all the way up to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh or all the way down to York Hospital.


There may, however, be exceptions where your preferred Birthing Centre, also known as a Midwife Led Unit, is closed due to staffing. Another exception is where the Birthing Centre says you do not meet their acceptance criteria to be allowed to birth there. This article is not about acceptance criteria to the Birthing Centre so if you need more information and support with accessing a Birthing Centre, or Midwife Led Unit, please visit AIMS or Birth Rights .

 


RVI Birthing Centre


Where is the RVI Birthing Centre?


RVI Birthing Centre and RVI Delivery Suite
RVI Birthing Centre and RVI Delivery Suite

It is located on the ground floor of the Leazes Wing at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle city centre. You can park right outside the door, in a designated maternity bay, and waddle in. The RVI Birthing Centre is to the left of the main entrance and you press the buzzer to gain access.


Is the RVI Birthing Centre a midwife led unit?


Yes, it is a midwife led unit. It is located within the main RVI and the obstetric unit, RVI Delivery Suite, is only one floor above where you can see a doctor if you need to. This means if your low-risk birth takes a left turn you do not have far to go for additional care.


What does the RVI Birthing Centre have available?


There are 12 different rooms, all with en-suites, and five of these have birth pools. The rooms are designed to be a home away from home and medical equipment is kept behind closed cupboard doors. You can adjust the lighting, and air conditioning, to your preferences. You should also be able to access a birth ball, or peanut ball, use soft floor mats, a birthing couch (like a piece of soft play), and a birthing stool. There are no hospital beds in the birth rooms. You can also access Entonox (gas and air) for pain relief.


Is my partner allowed to stay with me at the RVI Birthing Centre?


At the RVI Birthing Centre your partner is not treated as a visitor and they can stay with you throughout your stay. You both get your own private room to stay in after giving birth. A sofa bed will be provided for both of you but you can request a hospital bed be brought in. If you gave birth in a birth pool room you will be asked to move to a non-pool room so that it is available once more for someone else.


You can read more about the RVI Birthing Centre here.



RVI Birthing Centre Closures


Even if you find yourself in the fortunate position to be low risk, meeting the acceptance criteria for the RVI Birthing Centre, and able to fend off the reasons why you should be induced yesterday, you may find the RVI Birthing Centre closed. Unfortunately, for many months, the RVI Birthing Centre has had major staffing issues and where RVI maternity is short staffed, staff are prioritised into the RVI Delivery Suite (obstetric unit) and the RVI Birthing Centre suffers. Doors were completely closed for a period in 2023 but have been opening sporadically since the end of the year. Unfortunately, for women at the end of their pregnancy, closure announcements are no longer being made and instead, women who hope to birth there, are expected to phone, when in labour, to find out whether it is open at that time or not. The other unfortunate thing is, even if you manage to have your baby in the RVI Birthing Centre, and are not yet ready to go home, if it needs to close, you will be told to move to RVI Delivery Suite and your partner will be asked to leave after “visiting hours.”


You can follow the Connie E-midwife page on Facebook to ask questions and keep up to date with news.


Unfortunately, the RVI Birthing Centre is not currently a reliable place of birth. The hope is that once the new intake of midwives pass their Preceptorship the RVI Birthing Centre will be more easily staffed.


When it is open, it is a wonderful option.

 

RVI Delivery Suite


If you elect to have a caesarean section, or an induced labour, at the RVI you will be required to attend the RVI Delivery Suite. You may also be advised to attend the RVI Delivery Suite if you are classed as being "high risk."


Where is the RVI Delivery Suite located?


The RVI Delivery Suite is located on Level 4 of Leazes Wing at the RVI in Newcastle city centre. If you arrive in labour you can park in one of the maternity bays outside, for a short period. However, if you are arriving for an elective caesarean section, or an induction of labour, you will be expected to park in the car park.


What does RVI Delivery Suite have available?


The RVI Delivery Suite is an obstetric unit, also known as Labour Ward. Although you will still receive midwifery care in the RVI Delivery Suite it is a Consultant (doctor in obstetric medicine) led unit and is designed to be more medical and have the capacity to manage high risk births. This means that the rooms will look more like hospital rooms and have lots of visible medical equipment and monitors.


They have 12 birthing rooms, only one of which has a birth pool. This means that you cannot be guaranteed a water birth, if this is in your birth plan, as the only one may be in use. Another interesting aspect is that only five of the birthing rooms have an ensuite; this means that should you be in labour, and need the loo, you may have to wander down the corridor to find it.


You can request a birth ball, floor mat, or birthing stool. All rooms will have hospital beds in them. You will be able to access Entonox (gas and air). If are planning to have an epidural in labour you will need to attend an obstetric unit. An anethetist is required to administer this and they will not attend you at home or in the Birthing Centre.


Is my birth partner allowed to stay with me at the RVI Delivery Suite?


No. After giving birth you will be moved to a Recovery Ward where you will share the space with other women. Partners are asked to leave after “visiting hours” at 8pm and are not readmitted until after 8am the next morning.


You can read more about RVI Delivery Suite here.

 


Northumbria Birth Centre at NSECH


Where is the Northumbria Birth Centre?


Northumbria Birth Centre at NSECH
Northumbria Birth Centre at NSECH

The Northumbria Birth Centre is situated at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital


(NSECH) in Cramlington. You can park in a maternity bay for 20 minutes, if you are in labour, otherwise, for induction of labour, or an elective caesarean section, you will need to park in the car park. You will need to enter the hospital through A&E and make your way to the Birth Centre on Level 2.


Is the Northumbria Birth Centre a midwife led unit?


No, it is not. The title “Birth Centre” is a bit misleading. Women also attend here for inductions, high risk pregnancies, and caesarean sections. There is likely to be visible medical equipment and monitors.


What is available at the Northumbria Birth Centre?


At the Northumbria Birth Centre there are 14 rooms. Two of these have birth pools and all of them have en-suites.  After giving birth you remain in your own private room. However, if you have birthed in a pool room you will likely be expected to move so it is available for someone else. There are hospital beds in all the rooms.


You will be able to access Entonox and an epidural.


Is my partner able to stay with me at NSECH Birth Centre?


Yes. Your partner is not treated as a visitor and is welcome to stay with you at all times, even overnight, on a pull-out sofa bed. There are no shared ward facilities and you will all have your own private space.

You can learn more about the Northumbria Birth Centre here.




 

Hexham Midwife Led Unit (MLU)


Where is the Hexham MLU?


Hexham MLU at Hexham General Hospital
Hexham MLU at Hexham General Hospital

The Hexham MLU is located at Hexham General Hospital. This may seem a left field option, if you live in central Newcastle, but pick your time of day right and you can be there in 30 minutes (up to 50 minutes in rush hour). I have included this option because, for some people, an MLU will be more important to them than the distance they have to travel. With the RVI Birthing Centre currently not being a reliable option, Hexham is worth serious consideration if you have your heart set on an MLU.


If you arrive in labour you can park right outside the front door and your partner can move your car to the car park once you are settled.


What does the Hexham MLU have available?


The Hexham MLU has four birthing rooms, one of which has a birth pool. After giving birth you will be given a private room, with en-suite, and your partner is welcome to remain with you at all times. There is a pull-out bed available for your partner to stay overnight. There are hospital beds in all of the rooms. You will be able to access Entonox (gas and air).


What if something goes wrong? Is there access to a doctor at the Hexham MLU?


No, there are no obstetricians practising at the Hexham MLU. Please note that there are many instances that your midwife is trained to manage, such as a post-partum haemorrhage. In the event that something is beyond your midwife’s remit you may be advised to be taken by ambulance to the RVI Delivery Suite in Newcastle city centre. Please do note that such events rarely happen suddenly, and dramatically, and concerns may be raised far in advance of you making the decision to move to the RVI, such as labour not progressing or baby not managing the labour as well as they would like.


You can learn more about Hexham MLU here.




 

Home Birth


This is a tricky one as it is currently a postcode lottery whether or not your locality’s Home Birth team is available. If you live in North Tyneside, you are in luck. However, if you live in Newcastle, unfortunately the Home Birth team has been suspended, due to community midwife staffing shortages, through most of 2023 and now into 2024.  


Can I still have a home birth if the Home Birth Team is suspended?


Yes, you can. You have a human right to be able to birth at home, although, this does not include the right to be attended by a midwife. Some women choose to birth unassisted (freebirth), or with just a doula, or birth keeper present, in the absence of a midwife. You can also hire an independent midwife who will attend you at home for all your antenatal appointments, be on-call for you in labour, and will attend you at home again for your post-natal visits.


If the Home Birth team is reinstated will I definitely get a midwife to attend me in labour?


My belief is that the team will only be reinstated when they are sure they can provide a consistent and reliable service. However, there is always the possibility that you could phone, in labour, and be told there are no midwives available. In this circumstance you would be encouraged to attend the RVI Delivery Suite or RVI Birthing Centre, if it is open. If you do not wish to leave home they will likely send an ambulance to you. Anecdotally, I understand that this can still happen when women decline the offer of paramedics.


What is available at home?


Everything you could possibly want! This is the beauty of it. You can buy or rent your own inflatable birth pool and set it up in a comfortable, private, space. You may want to do a test run of inflating it and filling it with water (birth partner’s job). You can then set up the lighting, use real candles, light your wood burner, and eat and drink whatever you have in your kitchen. When you have birthed your baby, and are ready to be tucked into bed, you will be in your own bed with your familiar sights and smells around you. This can be a great option if you have small children and are struggling with on-call childcare arrangements. Your partner will never be treated as a visitor and there are no restrictions on who you have at home.


You are also able to have Entonox at home.


What if something goes wrong? Is home birth dangerous?


Just like at a freestanding MLU, like Hexham MLU, your midwife will be able to manage many eventualities, if things did take a left turn. Your midwife would also be able to recognise, and monitor, any abnormalities and would advise you attend the RVI Delivery Suite, or NSECH Birthing Centre (depending on your locality), by ambulance in advance of you actually needing to be seen by an obstetrician (specialist doctor). Things rarely happen suddenly and dramatically. You would not travel from home to an MLU, if advised to do so, because of abnormalities in labour. Sometimes women transfer simply because they want access to an epidural.


The Birthplace in England Study (2011)


If you have not heard of, or read, this study, I advise you do so. We assume hospital is the safest place to give birth and anywhere with fewer interventions available must be less safe. However, this study looked at data from 65, 438 women and compared where they had planned to give birth (not where they ended up). They found that all women were more likely to have an assisted delivery, or unplanned caesarean section, if they planned to birth in an obstetric unit (labour ward/ delivery suite) than all other birth options. All women who planned birth in an alongside (like the RVI Birthing Centre) or a freestanding MLU (like Hexham MLU) had significantly fewer interventions, included caesarean sections, and more normal births compared to women who planned birth in an obstetric unit. For women who had a baby before, both home and MLUs showed substantial and significant differences in caesarean section rates, instrumental delivery, and episiotomy. For first time mums, planning a birth at home, there were significantly higher rates of adverse outcomes for baby and a high transfer rate to an obstetric unit.


It is available to read in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) here.


I hope this information helps you in thinking about where you would like to birth your baby. With all options not currently readily available I know this is a difficult decision for some people.


Please do check out my website for further help in understanding the process of birth and how hypnobirthing can make a difference for you.




Hypnobirthing antenatal classes

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