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Giving birth at UCLH - detailed stories?

(5 Posts)
Peabody81 Tue 29-Apr-14 14:50:46

Hi All

I am 33 weeks pregnant with my first baby and have just woken up to the fact that I actually have to give birth. I can't go to the UCLH "birth prep day" and as UCLH don't do tours, I don't have any real idea what the environment on either the labour ward or the birth centre will be like when I get there at which point I'll probably be in labour and feeling a bit vulnerable and overwhelmed already.

I'm hoping to be able to be in the birth centre, and in a birthing pool, but trying not to have too many fixed ideas as a relatively unpredictable labour seems to be the only constant in people's experiences particularly first timers.

If anyone would be able to tell me as much as they can bit, not only about their experience of giving birth there but also the practical things - is the labour ward literally a ward with the only privacy offered by cubicle curtains? how long were you left alone in either the birthing centre or the labour ward? if you were in the birth centre but changed your mind and wanted an epidural, how long did it take them to transfer you? and anything else you thought was helpful, I'd be really grateful.

I've read the other threads on UCLH on the board and also the hospital's own materials.


creamoftomato Thu 01-May-14 09:39:41


i had my lovely baby boy at uclh almost 5 weeks ago. it was a very good experience, despite not going completely to plan. i was very, very glad that i had chosen uclh when things deviated from my plan A (which was natural birth in the pool etc).

you asked for details so here goes:

when you arrive, you go the maternal and fetal assessment unit (mfau) on the first floor - the other end of the corridor to where you go for midwife appts and scans. i'd been there before because we had a day when we thought the baby wasn't moving when i was pregnant. buzz the door to get in. when we arrived they took my notes, asked me to provide a urine sample and then took me into one of the rooms to be examined. i was 4cm dilated. the midwife called the birthing centre to tell them i was coming up. this all happened quite quickly and calmly - it was 11:30pm when we arrived and there was only one other person in the unit. the midwife who examined me took me upstairs and introduced me to the midwife and student (i had said i was happy to have students present in my birth plan) who would be looking after me. they left me and dh in our room in the birthing centre for 15 minutes to get unpacked and settled in.

the birth centre is very calm - the lights were dim, it was very quiet. we were given a pool room (you can see pictures of them i think on the uclh website) so there was a big pool, but also a birthing ball and big low bed-like thing (but not a bed). staff knocked the door every time they left and came back in. the first thing they offered us was tea and coffee. they were properly lovely. while we were there, the midwife and student stayed with us most of the time and the student monitored the baby's heartbeat every 15 minutes with a hand held doppler. i think that if i had preferred them to leave us alone that would have been ok, but i was happy to have them there. they were really nice and we chatted between contractions.

unfortunately i didnt even manage to get into the pool because i had a bit of meconium in my waters when they broke and wasnt progressing all that quickly so i was advised to transfer to labour ward (quite good for you as i can now describe the other side of things too!). i must admit i wasnt very pleased and did try to argue it a bit, but i was getting a bit panicky by that stage as the contractions were getting quite intense and i hadnt had anything for the pain (my own choice - they had offered me gas and air but i was trying to save it for when i really needed it!) even though i was upset and arguing, the midwife was incredibly kind and patient with me. eventually midwife and student helped us pack up and walked with us down to labour ward. its a short distance, down one floor in the lift and along a couple of corridors - i think it would take only a couple of minutes on a normal day, but took us probably 10-15 minutes with me stopping for contractions.

despite the name, labour ward is still all private rooms with attached bathrooms. the bathrooms in both birthing centre and labour ward are big 'wet room' style rooms with showers and plastic chairs on wheels, plus loo and sink etc. there is a pool room on the labour ward too, but i was in a normal room.

as you'd expect, the labour ward room was more brightly lit, had more equipment in it, a proper bed etc. the midwives were also a bit more 'old school', but the midwife from the birthing centre and the (wonderful) student stayed with us too. i think if id been admitted to labour ward at an earlier stage, id have had the chance to talk to them about dimmer lights etc, but as it was, i was in a bit of a state when i got there - id basically dilated the remaining 5cm on the walk downstairs so i more or less clambered up on to the bed and started pushing immediately when i arrived.

i had two labour ward midwives with me, plus my midwife and the student from the birthing centre stayed too (at the insistence of the labour ward midwife, so that i would have continuity), plus my dh, so loads of support - again, i think if id been there from earlier on id have had more of a say in how things went at this point (e.g. i wouldnt necessarily have chosen to have that many people around - but in the end i was really pleased that the people who had been with me from the beginning were able to stay. and like everyone says and i didnt believe until afterwards, there probably could have been 100 other people in the room and i wouldnt have noticed).

the wonderful student delivered my baby boy at 4:31am.

we were left on our own to gaze at him until about 6:30, when the midwife came back in and asked me if id like to have a shower and go up to the postnatal ward. unfortunately the story gets a bit scary at this point, so without too many details, i was a bit worried by how much i was bleeding in the shower and it turned out to be a pph. i passed out and woke up with many doctors in the room doing lots of different things to help me. it was very frightening and happened very quickly, but i think whats worth noting about the story is how incredibly quickly they arrived and knew what to do, and also that two different doctors came up to my head at different points to explain exactly what was happening - who was doing what, why, what drugs they were giving me and telling me that i would be fine and that my baby was fine too. i cannot tell you the difference it made to have someone take the time to speak to me.

eventually we were taken up to the postnatal ward. its more of a 'proper' ward but not how i pictured it - in my head i always imagine big long rooms lined with beds, but its organised into smaller clusters of beds and they are all surrounded with big purple curtains. almost everyone had their curtains completely pulled, so its weirdly private. its definitely loud though. we stayed about 36 hours and i really didnt get very much sleep at all, between babies crying, monitors beeping, phones ringing and so on. your birth partner can stay with you on the ward, but be warned that they'll have to sit in a chair. after 36 hours of trying to sleep in the chair by the bed, i think dh was in a worse state than me. on the positive side though, the midwives and nurses continued to be very kind. they are definitely busy, so if you need help or want anything, id advise you to be confident and ask - we did this about breastfeeding and asking for paracetamol, and they were only too happy to help.

ds was checked over the next day at lunchtime and the paed was happy for us to be discharged if we were happy to go. i was a bit torn about leaving - i think theyd have been happy to keep us in if id wanted to stay and i was feeling a bit frightened to leave and worried about feeding, but in the end we decided we needed to get home to rest. we called a taxi from the phone by the entrance door and they were there v quickly to pick us up.

this is a really long reply by now. i hope its got the sort of details in it that you are looking for - give me a shout though if you have any other specific questions. i think the main thing id say about the whole experience is how fantastic the staff were - right across the board they were professional, approachable, calm, helpful... some of my nct friends who gave birth in our local hospital have very different stories.

last piece of advice - bring a pillow from home! i didnt notice it much during labour but the pillow in my bed on the ward was so small and thin it might as well not have existed!

really hope all goes well for you smile

Nucky Thu 01-May-14 13:44:32

Thanks creamoftomato that was really useful. I'm due to give birth there soon too.

Can I ask a rather stupid question? How did you get there as there is no parking? If you used a cab, did you find they were fine with taking you whilst in labour? I know there is parking 10 mins walk away but I'm guessing I won't feel like walking once it all kicks off.

Peabody81 Thu 01-May-14 14:57:11

Thanks so much creamoftomato - that was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for and it makes me feel so much calmer to have a sense of the practical side of things!

I hope early motherhood goes so well for you and your lovely boy.

creamoftomato Thu 01-May-14 17:45:06

hi nucky - we got a taxi. we were coming in from about half an hour away so i was a bit worried about getting there and asked the midwives about it a couple of times before the day. they told me that almost everyone arrives in a taxi because of the lack of parking. we rang around local taxi firms a few weeks before due date to ask if they were happy to take women in labour and how much it would cost - we ended up with a list of 4 local companies who were v happy to take us (we totally made the taxi drivers day too, he was so excited!)

peabody - thank you - and v glad it was helpful. let me know if you think of anything else youre wondering about in case i can help. good luck again smile

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