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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
'Midwives play such a vital role'
By Nick Triggle
BBC News, Health reporter

Simon Minkoff and baby Leo
Dr Minkoff was glad expert help was on hand
Many births are fairly straightforward, but it is not always the case. And in those situations even doctors are grateful to have a midwife on hand.

Simon Minkoff saw the signs almost immediately.

His wife's labour was going fine until just before delivery when the baby's heartbeat started to get weaker.

As a junior doctor working as an anaesthetist, he is well used to the delivery room.

But he said it was still reassuring that an experienced midwife was on hand to raise the alarm during the birth at London's Whittington Hospital at the end of March.

And his experience prompted him to bring his baby son to a debate on maternity care at the British Medical Association conference to stress the important role midwives play.

Dr Minkoff, who took 13-week-old Leo on to the stage with him, said: "I could see it all happening and looked across to the midwife and saw that she had seen it too.

"She was quite calm and went out to consult with the obstetrician. They both came back in and got the baby out quickly."

Mother collapsed

You never know when you may need more help
Simon Minkoff

But the problems did not stop there. After giving birth, his wife Esther, who is also a doctor, collapsed as her blood pressure dropped.

This time the midwife called an anaesthetist and she was given treatment to stabilise her.

London-based Dr Minkoff said: "Both conditions were potentially life-threatening to the baby.

"I think what this demonstrates is that you never know when you may need more help.

"The government wants to give women more choice and a right to home births.

"I would never say you should not have a home birth, but what I think the health secretary has to remember is that if this is to be done safely there needs to be enough fully-trained midwives."

He also warned about the cuts to hospitals which have led to some maternity departments having to close their doors to labouring mothers - reports emerged last year that scores of labour wards had stop admitting women for short periods because staff were overworked.

The BMA voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to guarantee one-on-one midwife care.

Dr Minkoff said: "It is well known cuts are being made, but fully trained midwives are essential. It is no good staffing departments with just support workers.

"Two thirds of women need some kind of intervention and you need good midwives on hand to step in when that is needed as happened with us."

His son, called Leo, is now 13 weeks old and is doing well, but Dr Minkoff still remembers the role the midwife played.

"I will never forget how she reacted. I am a doctor, but I was still grateful for the help and good care we received."

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