PANICKED parents-to-be are calling for answers from Warrington Hospital after being told women in labour will have to be constantly strapped to monitors and water births are highly unlikely for the next six weeks.

Heavily pregnant women were left in shock after being told the news via a statement from the head of midwifery during antenatal classes on Monday night.

After £450,000 was spent on refurbishing the maternity ward and providing birth pools, many are now questioning why this decision has been made.

A 38-year-old Great Sankey mum, who is expecting her first child in April and did not want to be named, said she feels disappointed and upset over the news and is now considering looking at other hospitals.

She added: “It’s clear from the urgency it’s a knee-jerk reaction and nobody has been able to explain why this decision has been made.

“This is all happening at the last minute for us, so goodness knows what’s happened to women going to hospital this week. I feel confused and scared to be in this position and frightened over what they are not telling us.”

Water births are opted for by many mums-to-be as the water acts as a form of pain relief and concerns have been raised over mums being strapped to devices measuring contractions and the baby’s heart rate as it will make it difficult for them to move around.

A hospital spokesman said water births would still be available but would not be possible if monitoring equipment was being used and it would have to be discussed with their midwife.

Karen Dawber, director of nursing at Warrington and Halton Hospitals, said: “We have recently received the highest national accreditation for safety and minimising risk in our labour services and always look at ways we can do more.

“We’ve seen a small trend of lower birth weights and women presenting with some other risks such as decreased foetal movement, these can all cause higher risks for babies in the later stages of pregnancy and labour.

“We want to help minimise this and one of the steps we have taken is to offer continuous monitoring of our labouring women for a period to assess how that works for women.

“We don’t want women to be alarmed by this in any way, it’s an extra element to providing safe care.

“Our other options for low risk labour such as our birthing pools and active birth rooms will still be available but we will be offering continuous monitoring first of all.”

The news follows Warrington North MP Helen Jones’ warning she does not want to see a review of current maternity services lead to any changes which would stop babies from being born in the town.

The announcement follows the maternity, children and young people’s strategic clinical network seeking to set up a special interest group to ‘reduce variation and improve outcomes’ for maternity services across Cheshire and Merseyside.

Mrs Jones added: “I am very concerned at what is behind this move.

“As we know from past experience, reviews like these have tended to impact on the services delivered from Warrington.

“I am very clear that Warrington people will want a fully functional maternity unit so people can be born in this town.”

A spokesman for NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside strategic clinical networks) said commissioners and providers across Cheshire and Merseyside have ‘jointly agreed’ to investigate why there are ‘variations’.

He added: “They will consider ways of reducing unacceptable variations and improving maternity services to deliver sustainable excellent quality and outcomes across the region.

“Data and evidence of best practice will be gathered and analysed to inform the decisions of clinical commissioners."

A hospital spokesman has added anyone with any questions they wish to discuss with the midwifery team at the hospital can contact them directly via 275224.

If there is no answer then a message can be left and the team will call back.