Birthing pools to expand at Royal London after NHS cash handout

Smiles all round at the Royal London after a doctor delivers twins

Smiles all round at the Royal London after a doctor delivers twins - Credit: Barts NHS

A new ‘natural birth’ unit is to open in London’s East End where women can give birth in a ‘home from home’ environment or in birthing pools—yet with medical help close by if needed.

The unit with capacity for 1,500 births a year is planned high on the eighth floor of the Royal London Hospital’s tower complex in Whitechapel.

Work starts later this year on the project which includes seven en suite rooms—two with birthing pools—as well as postnatal rooms, family rooms where dads can stay overnight and space for parent education classes.

The plans were revealed this week after the Barts NHS trust which runs the Royal London was awarded £495,000 by the Department of Health. Another £19,000 has been given to the trust for Newham University Hospital’s maternity upgrading.

The midwife-led unit is being located close to the Royal London’s existing labour wards which will give women with low risk pregnancies the reassurance that medical assistance is close by.

The aim is to offer more natural birth, with support before and during labour including aromatherapy and reflexology.

The Royal London and Newham University were among 100 hospitals receiving a share of £25 million to improve maternity services, announced by Whitehall on Thursday.

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Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “These hospitals have shown evidence of asking mums and dads what changes they need to make—so we know these are what people really want.”

Facilities such as family rooms are also planned for overnight stay to support mums in labour or if babies need neonatal medical care.

There were 5,000 births at The Royal London last year, which is expected to rise to an annual 5,260 in four years.

Maternity facilities on the sixth floor already include a birthing pool. The hospital also has a dozen mobile birthing pools.