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Barkantine chalks up close on 4,000 births in first 10 years on Isle of Dogs

PUBLISHED: 16:28 14 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:33 14 May 2018

Mums and staff at Barkantine birthing centre's 10th birthday party. Picture source: Barts NHS Health Trust

Mums and staff at Barkantine birthing centre's 10th birthday party. Picture source: Barts NHS Health Trust

Barts NHS Health Trust

Mums and midwives got together to celebrate the unique Barkantine birth centre’s 10th birthday with its relaxation—and its drama.

Ruth Davison and her baby Zoe born at the Barkantine. Picture source: Barts NHS Health TrustRuth Davison and her baby Zoe born at the Barkantine. Picture source: Barts NHS Health Trust

The Barkantine was the first of its kind in London when it opened in 2008 where women could have midwife-led care outside hospital.

The Isle of Dogs centre above a doctors’ surgery in Westferry Road has notched up 3,804 babies since then, described by Baroness Julia Cumberlege who carried out a review of NHS maternity services as “the best model of care”.

Midwife care is different from that on a hospital labour ward as mothers and their families have their own room with a double bed, private en suite facilities, a sofa and balcony, plasma TV—and even a birthing pool. Partners can also stay overnight.

“I felt like an individual from my first appointment,” recalled Ruth Davison at the celebration who gave birth to daughter Zoe six weeks ago.

“I was listened to and felt relaxed, content and cared for with every appointment. The birthing team shared my excitement and understood any worries I had, reassuring me when I needed it.”

The centre has a relaxing environment for mums during labour with as little medical intervention as possible, suitable for ‘low-risk’ pregnancies as there are no specialist doctors.

Olivia Keogh after little Eva's dramatic birth, with midwives either side, her Olivia Keogh after little Eva's dramatic birth, with midwives either side, her "guardian angel" Pcs behind and husband Freddy

But one mum had a bit of a scare one rainy night in April, 2016, when she turned up and found the front-door locked—and the baby about to arrive.

Two passing policemen helped Olivia Keogh, 32, and husband Freddy, 35, deliver little Eva Elexis on the doorstep in the rain until midwives heard the commotion in the street and came to the rescue.

The midwives put Olivia in a wheelchair with the baby on her stomach, the birth chord still attached, then wheeled them inside and out of the rain.

“It was quite traumatic and the rain added to the drama,” Olivia told the East London Advertiser at the time. “The policemen were just wonderful. I don’t know what would have happened if they hadn’t been there—they are my guardian angels.”

Pcs Rob Ruston and Steve Parmenter turned ‘midwife’ for the moment, until a real midwife came out into the street and made Olivia feel “much less terrified for the baby’s wellbeing”.

Eva Alexis was born healthy. It was just the birth in the rain that was a little dramatic.

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