Serenity Birth Centre, Birmingham: the ultimate in family-centred maternity care

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful birth centres in UK, Serenity, at Sandwell Hospital in Birmingham. The motto of the place is “Your Birth in Our Home” and it was just that in every aspect. The place is kept like a home – a perfect kitchen for both staff and visitors where we had tea as we talked and said hello to a succession of fathers as they got drinks for their partners; beautiful pictures and decorations and furnishing everywhere, arranged to perfection. The staff treated me like a visitor in a home – I got a hug from the lady who cleans the place! Nobody is allowed in without knocking except the midwives – not even the doctors! Any member of a mother’s family who comes is welcome to stay if they need to – there are double beds in every room and a cot for older siblings to sleep in. When the place was being designed, fathers were specifically consulted with, in order to get the family perspective; the name, Serenity, was chosen by a father.

The midwife whose inspiration and determination made this place happen, Kathryn Gutteridge, explained to me that this was “family centred” care, not “woman centred”. This is the formula in the National Service Framework and here in Serenity Birth Centre, I could really see what a high aspiration that is. It puzzles me how organisations like NCT and the Department of Health itself have fought against the “family centred” idea in favour of “woman centred”. The Serenity Birth Centre proves that mothers deserve nothing less than the best.