Celebrations as Norfolk birthing unit celebrates first year

There were celebrations at a Norfolk hospital yesterday as the county's first midwifery-led birthing unit celebrated its first birthday.

The Dolphin Suite at the James Paget University Hospital has proved popular with women who want a 'low tech' birth with the support of a midwife and birth partner. More than 300 babies have been born in the unit and the hospital has reported very positive feedback from the women who have used the facility.

Dolphin Suite co-ordinator Helen Smith said: 'This is a midwife-led unit that is intended for ladies at low risk of complications in pregnancy and birth.

'There is a relaxing and calm environment. We do not have a bed, but use birthing balls and bean bags and encourage women to stay mobile.

'Between 50pc and 80pc of our births are water births and women are hugely appreciative of the pool. It is about putting women in control and creating the kind of environment they want to labour in.'

The unit was opened officially last May by BBC Look East weather presenter Julie Reinger and her baby son Finn.

Yesterday, she and her husband, BBC Radio Norfolk breakfast presenter Chris Goreham, returned to the hospital with their 19-month-old to meet some of the babies born over the past 12 months and to celebrate the suite's first birthday with parents and staff.

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'I am absolutely delighted to be invited back and that the suite has been such a huge success,' she said.

Midwife Ellen Suttie attended the party with her 13-month-old granddaughter Betsy, who was born in the suite.

'All of the women comment on the relaxed environment we have here,' she said. 'I am sure that helps them stay relaxed and progress well in labour. It is more like being at home.'

Camilla Huke-Jenner, 35, and her husband Matthew, 44, from Lowestoft, attended the party with their son Raphael, who was born in the suite eight weeks ago. The couple have three other children, Gabriel, eight, Elijah, four, and Beatrix, two.

Mrs Huke-Jenner said: 'Raphael's brothers and sister were all born here, but this was the first time I had used the Dolphin Suite.

'It was just completely different and was the experience I always had in my mind.

'The others were all right and nice deliveries, but they never quite matched what I had in my mind.

'But this one was just perfect. It was very, very relaxed. I could say what I wanted, nothing seemed an issue and nothing seemed a problem. Helen was my midwife and she was a massive part of that.'