Focus on midwife-led units: Forth Valley Hospital, Larbert
Updated: Feb 22
If you're looking at birthplace options in Central Scotland then Forth Valley Hospital (FVH) in Larbert should be on your list. If you've never heard of Larbert, it's a small town close to Falkirk. The hospital is approximately:
20 minutes from Dunblane;
50 minutes from Edinburgh city centre;
30 minutes from Glasgow city centre; and
20 minutes from Stirling.
The hospital is large and modern, with good amenities such as a Starbucks by the main entrance and a large food court on the first floor. The women and children's part of the hospital adjoins the central section and the maternity entrance is fairly close to the main one. Once inside, the labour ward is on the first floor. At the end of this is a set of doors leading to three spacious midwife-led rooms, two with pools.
Okay, so what's so special about being in a midwife-led room compared to a standard labour ward room? Well there are a few additions that make it a more pleasant environment, such as:
The size (they're generally slightly bigger);
Different furniture. There's usually a birthing couch for resting on postnatally, rather than a standard hospital bed. FVH also has special equipment such as an active birth bed, which allows a variety of different positions (see image below). Kaya stools and CUBS (Comfortable Upright Birth stool). See why these aids can be particularly beneficial for vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) here.
A birth pool. Midwife-led rooms are more likely to have a pool, and at FVH the only pools available are in the midwife unit, where two of the three rooms have one.
Little extras, such as twinkly lights and digital radios with Bluetooth, allowing you to play your own music.
What's missing from a midwife-led room? Emergency equipment. It's actually still there but because it's behind cupboard doors you're not constantly seeing unnecessary machines. Out of sight is out of mind and this reduces anxiety.
I'll be covering the benefits of waterbirth in more detail in a future blog, but suffice it to say that they're a lovely, gentle way to bring your baby earthside. A comparative study carried out in Sweden found that labour was reduced by an average time of one hour and 49 minutes, there was less tearing and interventions and those in the waterbirth group also reported a higher rate of satisfaction with their birth experience.
Something that sets Forth Valley apart from other places like Lothian Birth Centre in Edinburgh, is their flexibility on admission criteria. They welcome VBAC women and birthing people (air punch!), they have been known to accept those having induction of labour, and you can have continuous monitoring there, if you wish, either by telemetry (which can be used in a pool) or the standard machine. I should just point out that the last time I was there the telemetry machine wasn't working very well, but in my experience that's a common occurrence wherever you are.
A note about VBAC
Forth Valley has a dedicated VBAC Midwife, Jackie Rutherford. She's absolutely lovely and I'd encourage you to get in touch with her if you'd like a tour of the midwife-led unit with a view to birthing there.
Main Switchboard: Tel 01324 566000
VBAC Midwife: Jackie Rutherford
Helena Hamilton is an experienced doula who specialises in supporting VBAC. She is based in Edinburgh and attends births in many areas, including Central Scotland, Dundee, Fife and Glasgow. For more information you can email her at email@example.com