What is a midwifery unit?
A midwifery unit or birth centre is a maternity unit that offers a social model of care, where birth is viewed primarily as a physiological event. Midwifery units are situated either 'alongside' a labour ward or delivery suite in an obstetric unit (hospital), or 'freestanding' in a community setting, usually some distance from an obstetric unit. Both types of midwifery units are run by experienced midwives, who try to make the birthing environment homely and tranquil.
Here are the Birthplace terms and definitions.
Please click here for our Policy Research Briefing 1, which sets out what is meant by a midwifery unit and some of the history and philosophy behind midwifery unit care.
Our Policy Research Briefing 2 provides a summary of the key aspects of clinical effectiveness associated with midwifery unit care in England, and comments on the extent to which research in England is transferable.
freestanding midwifery units
Freestanding midwifery units (FMUs) are situated on a separate site from obstetric services; they may be an independent building or on the site of a community hospital. FMUs provide care and support to women who are well and unlikely to have complications (low-risk). Low risk women booking care at an FMU frequently use a birth pool during labour and have less medical intervention than low risk women booking care in and obstetric unit. If a women transfers to the obstetric unit during labour she will usually travel by ambulance .
alongside midwifery units
Alongside midwifery units (AMUs) are usually situated within a hospital that provides obstetric care, close to the delivery (birthing) suite, or labour ward. Sometimes they are on the same site, but in a different building. AMUs provide care and support to women who are well and unlikely to have complications (low-risk), they are close to medical facilities and personnel should the woman need them. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies who book at an AMU frequently use a birth pool during labour, and have less medical intervention than if they gave birth in an obstetric unit. If a woman transfers to the obstetric unit during labour she might walk, go by a wheelchair, bed or trolley. For resources for alongside maternity units lookhere.