Northern Ireland’s first midwife-led maternity unit is set to open seven days a week from next month to increase the number of births at the facility.
The state-of-the-art unit at Downe Hospital in Downpatrick opened to expectant mums from Monday to Friday in March but there have only been 16 births so far. The South Eastern Trust had been unable to offer the service seven days a week due to a lack of adequately trained midwives.
As a midwifery-led unit, women will be helped through their labour by midwives alone — meaning the midwives working there must have at least two to three years of experience to ensure the safety of both mum and baby.
Zoe Boreland, lead midwife for the trust, has revealed an additional two midwives have been recruited at the unit which has a capacity to deliver more than 300 babies a year.
She said she believed the restricted opening hours could have been behind the small number of births.
She also moved to allay fears women may have over choosing to give birth at a unit where the delivery is overseen by midwives, as opposed to doctors.
“It may seem like a relatively small number but it is important to note we predicted about 50 babies would be born at the unit in the first year,” she explained.
“We only use highly trained midwives and we only accept women who are low risk. Complications arise when there has been medical intervention, for example we don’t induce, but if a woman requires intervention they can be transferred quickly to the Ulster Hospital.
“I think the fact we were only open five days a week has played a part in the numbers.”