advice about Homerton Hospital? homebirth, waterbirth, or asylum?

(37 Posts)
joyasha Fri 12-Oct-07 14:27:04


I am a 42 year old preparing for a first birth. I have had quite an emotional time as I had two miscarriages before. I have my care at Homerton but rightly or wrongly am having my doubts about having a hospital birth. When I started care at the early pregnancy unit they were lovely and I thought I would opt for hospital birth hopefully in their birthing pool. As pregnancy progressed and I started care in a new ward I have felt like a number being processed and while they haven't been horrible they haven't been helpful either. I have a new midwife every time and they have been delaying questions about a birth plan till later (I am 28 weeks) My GP is awful so I feel I have no one to go to for advice. Anyway should I try for a homebirth or go to the hospital. Any recent feed back on Homerton would be fabulous.
Thank you in advance

NinjaR Sun 14-Oct-07 18:20:36

A friend of mine gave birth in Homerton and said it was a very good experience.

I'm almost 17 weeks pregnant at the moment (with my first baby) and have been to the EPAU & Picton suite for a couple of scans and have felt that the staff has been very nice and helpful.

I have only seen one midwife from Homerton (at my GP) and didn't really like her at all. She kept interrupting me and didn't allow me to ask any questions. She seemed so uninterested in my pregnancy and her job. Hopefully I get another one at my next appointment (also at my GP). However, if she's nice, I'd hope to see the same one again...

I have been told that I cannot choose which hospital to give birth in, i.e. it has to be Homerton. I don't even consider a homebirth but would be interested in the pool. If not to give birth, but at least to help me through the contractions.

hoxtonchick Sun 14-Oct-07 18:26:03

i had dd, my 2nd child, at the homerton in 2005. i have diabetes & therefore high risk pregnancies. i had great care throughout pregancy & birth. though did spend far too long hanging around in the antenatal waiting room... post natal care was a bit rubbish, but you find that in most london hospitals.

i would be hesitant about having a homebirth for my first, but that's just me. maybe try & find a nice midwife at your next appointment to talk it through with.

joyasha Sun 14-Oct-07 18:53:51

Thanks both for your quick responses.

To hoxtonchic: It is good to hear of someone who had a good experience. I hope the attention wasn't because of being high risk.

To NinjaR I hope you don't mind me saying that I know it is within your right to choose your own hospital some GP's are funny about it but all they need to do is write a letter of referral. Your experience sounds much the same as mine, let's hope we both get luckier next time. all the best

glamourbadger Sun 14-Oct-07 19:08:50

I think it just depends on the midwives you get on the shift - like any hospital this is the luck of the draw. I had my twins at Homerton and an amazingly positive experience. My girls were in the special care unit for 2 months so I got to know the hospital really well. It's easy to be put off by the scary surrounding area and the weirdos hanging around outside! The level of care I received was first rate, the wards were clean and the midwives I had were excellent.

One thing I quickly realised is the staff are busy and things happen on 'hospital time' - this could be immediately or take all day. In my working life things were done when I asked and I guess I expected this level of service! When I chilled out about it things became easier.

Good luck with your choice.

NinjaR Mon 15-Oct-07 18:48:04

Joyasha - I asked the Homerton midwife (whom I saw at my GP) if I have a choice as all the books and leaflets I have read say that I have the choice. She was adamant that I have to go to the closest hospital in my area. Apparently this has something to do with funds etc... Not that I know which hospital I would choose, but seems a bit funny that I have to go to a particular place. Anyway, Homerton is the nearest to where I live...

poisondwarf Tue 16-Oct-07 16:54:40

Hi there,

I gave birth to my son at Homerton in March this year. Like you, I had a different midwife for each antenatal visit (at the hospital itself) and I found the level of care variable (they can sometimes be quite dismissive of your - to them - trivial concerns, but I was never sure whether to be reassured or alarmed by this). That said, the couple of (thankfully minor) complications I had were dealt with to my satisfaction as the midwives had no hesitation in referring me to the obstetrician.

I experienced the same level of interest in my birth plan as you are describing - I wanted a water birth and suspected that if it wasn't in my birth plan they would use it as an excuse not to let me have one. At each visit I was told I should discuss it at my next visit, and one (can't remember if it was a midwife or doctor) suggested that the best time to discuss my birth plan would be when I was in labour! They did reassure me that there was no reason I couldn't use the pool though. I eventually gave up but made sure I filled in the relevant sheet in my notes in case I needed it as ammunition (I wasn't able to have a water birth in the event as there was meconium in the sac so I had to be hooked up to monitors). My birth plan was never referred to whilst in labour (e.g. my preferences for pain control), but I would still make sure you've filled it in in case you're a bit out of it and/or haven't got someone with you who will be a strong voice on your behalf.

It was a quick and straightforward birth and the care I received in the labour ward was absolutely fine, apart from ending up with a 2nd degree tear which I suspect could have been avoided if the midwife had been paying more attention.

Unfortunately I found the level of postnatal care pretty appalling. I was in 2 nights and was made to feel like a bed blocker. For some members of staff anything really is too much trouble. If I was to give birth there again I would certainly be much more insistent in having my needs met - not normally in my nature but otherwise you are simply fobbed off or ignored. I get the impression that this is the case in a lot of hospitals though - Homerton is perhaps no better or worse than any other hospital in this respect. Basically with budgetary constraints they have to prioritise care and they quite rightly put the emphasis on the actual birth.

I didn't seriously consider a home birth myself as I quite fancied a water birth and also like the idea of more staff and more equipment being available if needed, and I don't know anyone who's had a home birth in the area, but I'd have no problem with giving birth at Homerton again - except this time I'd lower my expectations of the level of care after the birth.

joyasha Tue 16-Oct-07 19:00:34

Thanks to all- the more info I get the better.

- about having someone to speak on my behalf- I have started to look into doula services. Doulas in training only charge £150 to be with you for the delivery and will be that voice. I really can't afford it but if it works out, I might not feel so "outnumbered". Even my husband is really starting to like the idea of someone taking some pressure off him.

I wish I could hear from someone who actually was able to use the birthing pool...

NinjaR- I still think your midwife is leading you astray on this point. If you want to know for sure AIMS (helpline 0870 765 1433) is an organization which will tell you for sure as they are all about maternity rights.

NinjaR Tue 16-Oct-07 19:43:08

Joyasha - I believe you, I think it's difficult to try to convince the midwife otherwise... I will see what they say at my next appointment. Thanks for the number, I'll give them a call. I have also thought about getting a doula, and have tried to find contact details by googling it.

Just out of interest, what other hospitals have you considered?

joyasha Thu 18-Oct-07 11:43:52

NinjaR - I don't know where you are located but I heard that Newham was quite good.

I am really only considering Homerton, Whipps Cross, or Homebirth due to distance for me. To be honest I have heard some horror stories for Whipps Cross but they have two birthing pools instead of one like Homerton and sometimes I really feel like glamourbadger has said, it is the luck of the draw.

I got most of my numbers from Doula UK There is another site I think called British Doulas but I didn't call anyone there because I felt there site was a little negative, sort of badmouthing to other organisations.

It makes me feel down, we have to "fight our corner" Ideally we would feel cared for and it would be one less thing to worry about.

loisstella Mon 22-Oct-07 13:28:41

Hi guys,

I had a weird first experience at Homerton - the midwife was a bit nuts... joking all the time and she actually was insisting I was 3 inches shorter than I had been for the last, o, say 16 years... That annoyed the hell out of me.
She rushed through things etc. Went to GP with concerns and she calmed me down a lot - I'm sticking with Homerton as the overall reviews are probably no different than others. I guess haiving a different midwife next time won't be a bad thing for me.

I did look into another hospital. I wouldn't recommend the Royal in Whitechapel but I heard good things about UCL - near Tottenham Court Road.

time4tea Tue 23-Oct-07 13:37:39


I had both my sons (now 3.5 and 8 months) in Homerton, things have much improved in this time. because both were (weird) in breech, they were both elective cs. however, other people I know had different kinds of birth - although mainly labour/emergency cs.

I'd recommend homerton, although echo other comments on the thread about general surroundings of the place being a bit of a downer and the post-natal care for me being bad (although again, improving from "shockingly bad "3 years ago, to "not great" this year, IMO)

DS2 had some breathing problems after birth, and the care he received was exemplary - couldn't praise it enough.

things I'm glad I did/wish i'd known, in case these are any help to you -

join an NCT group/classes in your area - great for making friends and support for you and your DH - the baby shop BORN on Stoke Newington church st has lots of details of various things going on around Hackney

be prepared for things not to go as your birth plan (although I agree absolutely that it is good to have one to explain your general wishes) and don't stress out if it doesn't go to plan, it was disappointing not to have a vaginal birth etc, and i did feel a bit of a failure, ridiculous as having two lovely babies safely is the main thing smile

if you intend to breastfeed, identify a bf clinic near you, bf assistance is still shockingly bad in Hackney, the much-praised bf counsellor in hospital was away when both my babies were born hmm it was a disaster with DS1 and if I hadn't heard of Ruth at Highbury Grange GP surgery I would have been stuck again with DS2 - bf isn't as easy as it is often made out to be for some, and I and lots of people I know really struggled

good luck to you

poisondwarf Tue 23-Oct-07 17:53:13

I'd definitely agree about identifying a breastfeeding clinic in your area. There are breastfeeding sessions on the ward but it's the luck of the draw whether there is a one on while you are in hospital - I think they are on once a week.

I found the hospital staff, the community midwives who visit you after the birth and the health visitors to be pretty useless, offering at best a 'there there' and an arm around the shoulders, and at worst misinformation and panic-mongering. Mostly they just wanted you out of their hair.

Jocelyn (breastfeeding specialist based at the hospital) is good - you can request a session with her if you are in trouble but she is very much in demand. The only other midwife who was of any real help to me was Glenis who does the bf drop-in at the Sebright Centre in Haggerston - I wouldn't be still breastfeeding if it hadn't been for her.

With any luck you won't have any problems breastfeeding (if that's what you choose) but it might be worth finding out what's available beforehand. I found that a lot of the information about times, days and locations on the internet is out of date (e.g. the NCT website) so do phone ahead and check.

ketchupkisses Wed 24-Oct-07 09:54:22

I gave birth for the third time at Homerton last Tuesday. The midwife was fantastic. She really took notice of my birth plan and by suggesting all sorts of weird positions managed to get my baby out naturally with just a tear (two previous episiotomies) despite him having turned the wrong way.

I got to look at the birth pool but couldn't use it because none of the midwives on that night were trained for waterbirths sad. It looked nice!

I agree with others that the post natal ward is grim. I would recommend asking for a private room, which in my case meant I had my own shower. It cost £70 I think although that was two years ago. I was discharged the same day this time round.

Also if you don't fancy the food, you can send dh/dp out for a take-away. There's a good vietnamese on Chatsworth Road which is a short walk.

There's also a carpark on Chatsworth Road where you can leave the car overnight if you need to.

stargazers Wed 24-Oct-07 11:00:04

Congratulations on your new arrival ketchupkisses!

I gave birth to my DD 2 years ago in Homerton and had a good experience. I was nervous as I had all my antenatal care there and it was variable, plus as I was 11 days over my due date I had to have an induction despite really wanting a natural birth. When we got there the ward midwife was all ready to hook me up to the oxytocin but we demanded to see a consultant who agreed that as I'd had a very healthy pregnancy we could try a less invasive method. I was induced with a hormanal pill, which kicked things off and, although the pool was being used, I was able to then have the active, drug free labour I desired. Spent a lot of it walking round the hospital and sitting in the bath. My midwife was fantastic - I remembered her from a couple of antenatal appointments and she really respected my birth plan and was very encouraging and with us nearly all the time.

My advice would be discuss and write your birth plan with your partner, attached a copy to your notes and give it to the midwife on the day. Don't be pushed into anything you don't feel comfortable with. Use your partner as your advocate. And get a private room for afterwards - makes such a difference as it's quieter and you have your own bathroom. And take your own pillows with you, more comfy and they often have shortages.

In terms of breastfeeding, ask to see Joceyln the BF counsellor. You can also get access to BF counsellors via the Breastfeeding Network. They have a great website, phoneline and run drop ins at the St Saviour's Priory on Queensbridge Road on a Tuesday and Friday. Can highly recommend these, Joceyln will be there as will another counsellor Sarah who is just lovely and the reason I was able to stick with breastfeeding - I went along fighting back tears and came away feeling brilliant. Is also a good place to meet other mums too. You can also meet mums via the NCT - they run tea groups in your area, info on the NCT website. Good luck!

joyasha Fri 26-Oct-07 11:24:16

Congrats from me as well for your third precious bundle. And thanks to all for such a wealth of information.
I am a little worried about midwifes having no training for birthing pool. I think I am hoping for a water birth too much, considering I have yet to find anyone who has been able to have one. It is just that water really really relaxes me and it just seems so much friendlier for the baby's transition.
I also love this private room idea seems like a bargain since sleep was impossible on the ward last time I was in.

ourraquel Tue 20-Nov-07 16:21:18

I had my daughter (1st baby) in Homerton in June, and I thought I'd write because we DID get to use the pool! So did a couple of other mums I know, who actually gave birth in there too. My midwife wasn't happy with that idea because she wasn't trained for it (and as it turned out I didn't get on with the pool anyhow), but she was supportive about me using it for pain relief. We also had one of the rooms in the Mothers' Suite and that was great, because they're quite comfy and the staff mostly just let you get on with it.

Overall I'm afraid our experience was quite a mixed one - our midwife was quite 'old school' and didn't manage the delivery in the way I'd have liked her to, and I didn't have the confidence to demand what I wanted. However, everyone else I know who's had their babies there seems to have had a wonderful midwife; they obviously have some very skilled midwives who listen to and support women. Even though ours wasn't like that, other members of staff were brilliant. The postnatal ward was grim, but you know that already!

Things I wish I'd done that I didn't do were:
a) ask that the pool be filled right up as full as it will go. I was terribly polite and said 'oh no, that's fine, let's not waste any more water' and ended up basically sitting in a bath!
b) this will be a controversial one but - the Homerton is a teaching hospital, so it's possible that you'll be asked if you mind a trainee midwife assisting with your birth. This happened to me, and I said yes, because I've always said yes to things like that. If I had my time again, I would say no.

Everyone has offered really good advice so far, on the birth and on breastfeeding (if you're planning to). I'd just add that the La Leche League are brilliant at offering breastfeeding support. They have meetings once a month at Born on Stoke Newington Church St, and they also have volunteers (including specialist lactation consultants) who you can call for breastfeeding advice. Several times, they talked me through breastfeeding problems, and really really helped.

I hope all of this helps!

krabbiepatty Fri 23-Nov-07 13:05:02

I don't wnat to frighten you but personally I would never go to the Homerton again. I haad a very bad experience there (not birth-related but my maternity experience there was at best mediocre) and the place is a shambles. If you can find another option, I'd go for that.

JoTang Mon 26-Nov-07 13:50:18

Hi krabbiepatty. I know your message said you don't want to frighten anyone but without knowing more information about your experience, its difficult not to be. Any chance you could elaborate further? I know the postnatal care is pretty poor, was that the only problem?

Rustie Fri 30-Nov-07 14:49:41

I've had children at The Homerton and The Royal London and, to be honest, there isn't much in it. My main problem was always with the midwives who, at a time when you need support the most, seem to be the surliest, most unhelpful people on earth.
There is the odd one who is very nice, but it doesn't compensate for the rest, I'm afraid.

DisasterZone Mon 17-Dec-07 15:56:36

Reading with interest as I contemplate pregnancy no 2. I'm a Hackneyite and was due to have DD1 at Homerton but at 6 months we moved temporarily to Aylesbury and she was born at Stoke Mandeville. I wanted a waterbirth but was put off with lots of excuses (had the feeling that the midwives couldn't be arsed) my birth plan was hardly referred to, I was left in the nice but ineffectual company of a trainee midwife and DD was delivered by Ventouse with episiotomy only moments before the wheeled me off for Csection.

Not at all what I wanted. Not at all relevant to your Homerton questions either but what I am trying to say is that the experience is pretty much the same everywhere, even smaller regional hospitals which aren't under nearly as much pressure as our city ones. It's very much the luck of the draw and unless you go private or pay a doula, out of your control.

I've had friends deliver at Homerton and heard equally great and terrible things. All I can say is shout as loud as you can for what you want, this is no time to be polite! Good luck.

littledancer Sat 05-Jan-08 14:19:37

Don't know if this is too late for joyasha, you might have had the babe! I have had two homebirths using a birthing pool, one whilst living in Bethnal Green and one in Hackney (in September) I can't recommend the experience more highly. If anyone's interested there is a very good homebirth support/information group in Bow, E3 run by a woman named Claire and I think it's associated with the NCT. It was very helpful for us as we contemplated homebirth for our first child. I also used a doula for my last labour as we had recently moved to Hackney and I was worried about getting adequate (or any!) support from the community midwives. As it turns out, two Midwives attended the birth but the doula was really great and if I was to have a baby in hospital would definatley have the doula supporting me there too.

Clairemo Tue 15-Jan-08 18:04:57

littledancer - can i ask where you found your doula? I am due to give birth to my first in June at the Homerton and am nervous about relying on the care from the midwives. Any advice on picking / contacting a good, supportive doula or any specific recommendations would be great. Thanks!

PazzaPlusTwo Fri 18-Jan-08 17:39:25

Littledancer - I would also be interested to know who your Doula was.

I'm due twins in May, and have heard lots of very positive stories about the Homerton, which is great. But I am pretty sure there will be zero continuity of care ... contact with the midwives is all routine box-ticking and 'see you in 8 weeks time!'

Next week I am meeting the Head of Midwifery to talk about Homebirth. That would have been far and away my choice for a singleton but since it's twins and I can't find an independent midwife with twins experience for love nor money, I will probably have to opt for hospital anyway. But it does seem to have got someone listening to what I want for once!

The Homerton's midwives helpline is good. But they didn't have much info on twin births and they seemed pretty sure I was going to be hooked up to a drip with constant fetal monitoring all the way through, so waterbirth is out and I will definitely be in the delivery suite, no chance of meeting the midwives in advance, blah blah. Seems about as far from a situation that would help the natural process of labour as possible!

I am deeply suspicious of whether the midwives on call at the time will even be confident dealing with a twin birth, so I'm worried they will be more likely to go for a kneejerk intervention if anything remotely unusual happens. It looks like the best option is to get a really good Doula to support me and DH to at least try to give me some space and get my wishes put across. So, any recommendations very very welcome.

Cheers, Pazza x

gemmamc Fri 25-Jan-08 09:56:56

Just wanted to add my thoughts. I had my first baby at Homerton in November 07 and I can summarise my thoughts as follows:
-ante natal care with the community midwifes not very good (different midwife each time, and although some are good, others are just filling in forms and not listening to what you say)
-towards the end I was happy they had set up the helpline, which I used more than once. I also found out that any time you have a concern in the second half of pregnancy you can just walk in to the Obstetric assessment unit at the hospital and you can see a midwife and a doctor within a couple of hours. They don't mind if you are just being over anxious. These are the same staff you will meet on the labour ward, which can be reassuring, as you can finally get a sense of continuity of care...
-delivery suite was outstanding. I had a complicated labour and was in and out of there for three days. I always felt extremely safe, and although the many midwifes I had throughout that time were all different and had different preferences e.g. for pain relief, they all seemed to work as a team, and handover between them was never a problem. There was always one to one care, which is not the case in all hospitals unfortunately - and again felt really reassuring.
-I also met some of the doctors because I ended up with an emergency C-section (which WAS definitely justified - and in fact I was impressed by the fact they tried their best to let me have a vaginal birth until it became obvious it would not be possible). I was impressed by their professionalism and I felt very well taken care of and calm during the C-section.
-post natal ward was bad. Unfortunately I had to be there for 3 days. My advice would be to get a private room as someone already said, and also to get out of there as fast as possible. To be assertive with the midwifes (some are great, but a few are a bit bossy and not too keen on mothers who want to breastfeed exclusively - they may try to push formula on you even when it's not needed, like in my case). Even the nice ones are very overworked, it's very important to take ante natal classes e.g. with the NCT or other local teachers and to be informed beforehand on what you want so you are able to ask for help.
Hope this helps. Good luck!

PS I know someone who used the pool and found it great. I had at least one midwife trying to convince me to use it, but I was not interested.

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