NEW birthing rooms at a Winchester hospital have seen an increase in the rate of normal births.

The birthing rooms, which were officially opened last week at Florence Portal House at Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, have been in use since August last year.

The two suites, named Willow and Watermeadow, feature birthing pools, an en-suite washroom, mood lighting, recliner armchairs and a sofa bed for partners, designed to give a relaxed experience for couples becoming parents.

Clara Haken, consultant midwife, said everyone is excited to have the suites officially opened.

She said: “We have seen five consecutive months of an increase in our rate of normal births since the suites opened.

“It’s being in a setting where you are relaxed – it helps labour.”

The rooms were designed with the help of the Maternity Service Liaison Committee who had a meeting in 2011 to come to an agreement on the colour scheme and feel of the rooms.

The meeting saw around 20 new mums attend, babies in arms, to contribute ideas for the rooms alongside the hospital team.

Elizabeth Padmore, chairman of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, attended the official opening of the two rooms on January 17.

She said: “The mothers who have used the local service were asked to help us create the home from home feel for the birthing suites.

“They helped us on the detailed planning, they chose the colours of the rooms and advised us on the furniture, and equipment they wanted available.

“Having two pools for women to use for labour and birth has proved popular.”

The development at the hospital has also been a hit with Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine, who admitted the hospital will always have a place in his heart since the birth of his two children, when he also attended the opening.

He said: “Any investment with the trust is always going to get a welcome from me.

“It’s about giving couples choices, and having babies at home is a legitimate choice but it isn’t for everybody.

“But having babies in a home from home environment gives couples that option – with bells on!”