The Labour Ward at Lewisham Hospital – a Doula’s viewpoint

Following on from my post about the Pregnancy Information Evening, this post covers the tour part of the evening. The tour of the Birth Centre and Labour Ward was led by the breastfeeding supporter. There were about 20 people on each tour and each lasted about 15 minutes. Firstly we visited the Birth Centre, which is also on the ground floor. I have reviewed the Lewisham Birth Centre previously, so will focus on the Labour Ward in this blog.

The Delivery Suite, including the Labour Ward is on the third floor of the Green Zone. Women who have had any issues in their pregnancy or who have other risk factors would birth their babies there rather than the birth centre, though it is available to any expectant mother within the borough. The labour ward is accessible via a large lift. We were shown two of the rooms. The first had a birth pool identical to the ones in the Birth Centre downstairs. It had a wooden framed armchair and a convertible delivery bed. Similarly to the Birth Centre the lighting is dimmable, and was set at a soft, low level, but unlike downstairs there was a bank of monitors embedded in the wall behind the bed and the resusitaire and the computer and monitor were on display in the centre of the room. Apparently there is often an ECG machine on its trolley in the room when it is being used, but this had just been wheeled out (possibly to make space for our large tour group!). The room had an en-suite bathroom with a toilet and a ‘wet-room’ style shower. We were also shown another room which was extremely similar but which did not have a birth pool, though it did (in a similar way to the non-pool rooms in the Birth Centre) have a bath in the en-suite. The convertible delivery bed was in its more chair-like arrangement, and there were helpful infographics on the wall behind the bed showing different positions for labour using the bed in that configuration. The stirrups on the foot of the bed, which seemed more visible for some reason, did raise a few alarmed eyebrows amongst the pregnant members of the tour group. Other than the birth rooms, the delivery suite also has assessment/ observation wards, with 4 beds each in its own curtained bay. If possible, the midwives prefer to admit women in active labour directly to the labour wards, but these rooms are available for women who have been induced, whose waters have broken prematurely or who need to be closely observed for other reasons.

After a woman has had her baby and has been assisted to give its first feed, whether via breast or bottle, she and her partner will be moved to the postnatal/ maternity wards on the 5th floor. We did not see these wards, but the tour guide told us that the wards have 4 beds each, in curtained bays. Partners are permitted to stay on the ward and may sleep in reclining chairs (she suggested that they may like to bring an inflatable mattress or camp bed if they need to be horizontal to sleep properly!). Private rooms are available for £150 per night.

Lewisham hospital helpfully provide a Virtual tour of the Labour Ward if you’d like to get an idea for yourself prior to an actual tour. Further details of the ward can also be seen in the Which? review of the Lewisham Hospital Labour Ward.

My overall impression of the labour ward was of professionalism with a human edge. The birth rooms are well thought out for women to be able to labour actively, moving around, using different positions and the birth pool if desired. The lighting can be dimmed, to create a tranquil atmosphere for one’s birth space, but medical equipment is easily accessible and readily available. Women who birth their babies here need not feel that it is ‘second best’ compared to the Birth Centre; the midwives I spoke to were the perfect combination of knowledgeable and warm. And finally, I was so pleased, after being disappointed with the grubby and shabby appearance of a not-to-be-named South East London labour ward, that all the areas I saw were clean and bright; sometimes it’s these little signs that matter!

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