INTERNATIONAL Day of the Midwife on May 5 is helping to raise awareness about the essential care midwives provide to mothers and their newborns.

While many think of a midwife based in a hospital delivering babies all day, Bridgewater Midwifery Service for Widnes and Runcorn has shown that the job entails a lot more.

From the initial appointment, to the new baby's first weeks, the process is about building a relationship with a new family within the community before welcoming their bundle of joy.

The Health Care Resource Centre in Widnes, provided by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, has a unique approach to the midwifery services they offer.

They are mostly community based, making the process smoother and easier for mums-to-be without them having to travel to appointments in hospitals.

Some of the community midwives here include Ann Marie Hatton, Amanda Charles, Lesley Hodgson and Karen Young.

Amanda explained why they are promoting home births to new mothers as part of this community approach.

She said: "We've become more educated nowadays. There's no need for healthy women to go into a hospital- they are for the sick.

"Community midwives can do exactly the same as those in hospitals.

"Home births help to reduce still births, loss, premature babies and there's less risk of intervention- its because the lady trusts you.

"She'll see as few midwives as possible so when we go into a home birth we don't need to be searching through notes because we know them.

"For me, you're a guest in that person's house, you're not telling them what to do."

People can self-refer to the midwifery service or they can be referred through their GP.

Throughout the meetings, from the first point of contact to scan reviews, the mum-to-be is seen by the same midwife as much as possible, to develop the relationship between them.

Katie Rice and John McCabe were at their 24-week scan review when they got the opportunity to hear their baby's heartbeat, who will be a younger sibling for their daughter Eva.

Chloe Nicolson received the same standard of care 10 days after her baby, Harry, was born.

She had a home appointment and was visited by community midwife Karen Young who weighed Harry and checked that both him and his mum were happy and healthy.

Ann Marie explained: "It's about integrating the care so the ladies will have met whoever is going to deliver them.

"We're a 24-hour on-call service, for the home births and for emergencies.

"I have worked here for three years and I am now looking after someone's third pregnancy."

They also offer vaccination clinics on a Friday for mothers and a drop in for those who don't have a set appointment on a Monday and a Friday.

There is also a full screening team which has recently received a positive report from NHS National Screening Community quality audit, which was greatly received by screening co-ordinator Gill Yates and community midwife team leader in Widnes, Tracy McCann.

The screening tests include those for infectious diseases, sickle cell and thalassaemia, Down's, Edwards' and Patau's syndromes and physical abnormalities, among others.

Tracy said: "We have had a glowing report! They said the systems we have got in place are superb.

"Any lady that requires an appointment, they don't have to go to Warrington or Whiston Hospital, so it's a community service."

Previously, those who had appointments at the two hospitals would struggle to attend or were unable to travel, so having The Health Care Resource Centre in Widnes has greatly improved appointment attendance.

While promoting community care and home births, the midwifery team stressed that it is the mother's choice as to what she decides to do.

The happiness and wellbeing of each lady in their care is the team's main priority and a major part of their job.