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Threat to low-risk birth environments

02 June 2024
Volume 32 · Issue 6


Emma Smith discusses the effect of the current staffing crisis on low-risk birth environments, and explores how the challenges that they face may be overcome

I inwardly sigh as I receive the call at the end of my shift that the birth centre where I work is having to be diverted yet again. While the night team head to the labour ward because of high acuity, I feel sad and deflated as I turn off lights, divert the phones and place a ‘closed’ sign on the birth centre door. On my drive home, I start to imagine women going into labour overnight and heading into the unit, keenly anticipating the birth centre as the place they will labour. I imagine the lump in the throat swallowed back, the shoulders drooping and the disappointed eyes as they are informed of its temporary closure for the shift and their questions, ‘is there no chance of it being open at all?’ or ‘is there a pool available?’ Frustration takes hold of me, and a lump threatens to form in my throat when I imagine the answers they are likely to receive: ‘there aren't enough midwives to staff the birth centre tonight’ and ‘I'm afraid the pool room is already in use’. I think back to the conversations I have had with women who tell me the feelings of dread and panic when they heard they could not use a pool, the birth centre was not open, or there was no community midwife available to attend their planned home birth. These familiar cases have led me to a conclusion: low-risk labour care is at threat with detrimental consequences.

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