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Survey of women׳s experiences of care in a new freestanding midwifery unit in an inner city area of London, England: 2. Specific aspects of care

Macfarlane, A. J., Rocca-Ihenacho, L. & Turner, L. R. (2014). Survey of women׳s experiences of care in a new freestanding midwifery unit in an inner city area of London, England: 2. Specific aspects of care. Midwifery, 30(9), pp. 1009-1020. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2014.05.008


to describe and compare women׳s experiences of specific aspects of maternity care before and after the opening of the Barkantine Birth Centre, a new freestanding midwifery unit in an inner city area.

telephone surveys undertaken in late pregnancy and about six weeks after birth. Two separate waves of interviews were conducted, Phase 1 before the birth centre opened and Phase 2 after it had opened.

Tower Hamlets, a deprived inner city borough in east London, 2007–2010.

620 women who were resident in Tower Hamlets and who satisfied the Barts and the London Trust’s eligibility criteria for using the birth centre. Of these, 259 women were recruited to Phase 1 and 361 to Phase 2.

Measurements and findings
the replies women gave show marked differences between the model of care in the birth centre and that at the obstetric unit at the Royal London Hospital with respect to experiences of care and specific practices. Women who initially booked for birth centre care were more likely to attend antenatal classes and find them useful and were less likely to be induced. Women who started labour care at the birth centre in spontaneous labour were more likely to use non-pharmacological methods of pain relief, most notably water and less likely to use pethidine than women who started care at the hospital. They were more likely to be able to move around in labour and less likely to have their membranes ruptured or have continuous CTG. They were more likely to be told to push spontaneously when they needed to rather than under directed pushing and more likely to report that they had been able to choose their position for birth and deliver in places other than the bed, in contrast to the situation at the hospital. The majority of women who had a spontaneous onset of labour delivered vaginally, with 28.6 per cent of women at the birth centre but no one at the hospital delivering in water. Primiparous women who delivered at the birth centre were less likely to have an episiotomy. Most women who delivered at the birth centre reported that they had chosen whether or not to have a physiological third stage, whereas a worrying proportion at the hospital reported that they had not had a choice. A higher proportion of women at the birth centre reported skin to skin contact with their baby in the first two hours after birth.

Key conclusions and implications for practice
significant differences were reported between the hospital and the birth centre in practices and information given to the women, with lower rates of intervention, more choice and significant differences in women’s experiences. This case study of a single inner-city freestanding midwifery unit, linked to the Birthplace in England Research Programme, indicates that this model of care also leads to greater choice and a better experience for women who opted for it.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Midwifery. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Midwifery, Volume 30, Issue 9, September 2014, Pages 1009–1020,
Publisher Keywords: Midwifery care; Free-standing midwifery unit; Birth centre; Service users׳ views
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
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