a NEW £2.8 million birth centre offering each mother a private birthing pool opens today at the Royal Infirmary.
The state-of-the-art centre is expected to bring around 1500 babies into the world every year, and will be open to women who are expected to have straightforward births. It includes six private delivery rooms, each with a birthing pool, en suite bathroom and sofa bed.
Designed to be as homely as possible, the rooms also include bean bags, flatscreen televisions and a “ballet barre” – a metal rail that a woman can hold on to for balance while squatting or bending.
Medical equipment is stored behind cupboard doors built into the walls to stop the room looking too clinical, and even the hospital beds have scatter cushions.
In addition to the private rooms, a four-bed ward is available for mothers who decide they would like to stay at the hospital a little longer after giving birth.
The birthing centre is staffed by midwives and specialist care staff, while women who need emergency care will be transferred next door to be treated by doctors at the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health.
The centre was meant to open last year, but changes in the way PFI partner Consort worked held up progress.
Maria Wilson, chief midwife for NHS Lothian, said: “This has been a dream for women in Lothian for a long time and it’s been very nice to get to this position today where we can open it up.
“The whole birth environment is very calm, its very relaxing, it’s very much a home from home, it doesn’t have the same high-tech environment. It offers more choices to women, and having your partner being able to stay is very important in the early stages after giving birth.”
The centre was designed after detailed consultation with women and groups such as the National Childbirth Trust. Staff also visited birthing centres around the UK and carried out online research into some overseas.
Visiting the centre ahead of its opening was Pauline Wilson from Loanhead, with eight-month-old Grace. She said: “It’s a great facility and a lot of thought has gone into making it a welcoming, relaxing place for expectant mums.”