Midwifery Conference will Explore Specialist Birthing Centres

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Midwives and health leaders from across the region will come together for a one day conference exploring specialist midwife-led units.

The 6th Annual University of Worcester Birth Conference, taking place on July 11 2013, will debate whether MLUs represent the best opportunity for women to have a straightforward, normal birth and for midwives to be truly autonomous practitioners.

A 2011 study on birthplace compared the safety of births in four settings. The study found that women who planned to birth in an MLU had significantly fewer caesarean sections during labour, and more ‘normal births’ than women who planned to deliver in an obstetric unit.

Professor Mary Nolan, the UK’s only Professor of Perinatal Education, based at the University of Worcester, said: “The conference will highlight the strong evidence for the safety of midwife-led units and their benefits to women who want a straightforward, physiological birth. Four eminent speakers will discuss the ground-breaking Birthplace study, how midwives can support women in a non-medical environment and how midwifery leaders can overcome barriers to establishing new midwife-led units.

“The conference aims to support moves in Worcestershire and Herefordshire – two counties which currently have no MLUs – to establish units which will provide women with the choice of a low-tech birth that minimises the likelihood of unnecessary interventions that may threaten the wellbeing of their babies and themselves.”

Keynote speakers from midwifery education, practice and research will address the organisational challenges of setting up MLUs, the merits of freestanding versus integrated MLUs, waterbirth in MLUs and whether MLUs have anything to offer women over home birth.

Parallel sessions will include interactive workshops in how to prepare women for an active birth, as well as briefings about innovative practice in MLUs across the country.

Sarah Snow, Lead Midwife for Education at the University of Worcester, said: “As a student and later as a qualified midwife in the 1980s and 1990s, I was fortunate to have cared for women in Worcester’s first midwifery-led unit. Originally known as the GP unit, my experiences working there fostered skills and enhanced knowledge that cemented my positive attitude towards normal birth and its significance within a woman’s and her family’s life.

“For midwifery students, the opportunity to participate in the care of women in a midwife-led care environment is essential if they are to fully understand the profound difference midwives can make to a woman’s birth experience. Without this environment, there will always be a gap in a student midwife’s otherwise excellent practice learning experience.”

Pattie Paine, Head of Midwifery at Worcestershire Acute Trust, added: “Midwifery Led Units or Birth Centres are a ‘’home from home’’ facility, where maternity care is provided for women who want and can safely choose a ‘low tech’ midwife led approach to birth. They are staffed by midwives skilled in supporting women through normal birth. Care in these units, because of their size, is friendly, individualised and are women and family centred. MLUs can be alongside (adjacent to an obstetric unit) or free standing.”

If you would like to attend the conference, or have any queries please call Naomi Rusher, Events & Conference Co-ordinator, on 01905 855147 or email

For information on courses at University of Worcester visit or for application enquiries telephone 01905 855111 or email