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Freestanding Midwifery Unit

Barts Health NHS Trust has two freestanding midwifery units; The Barkantine Birth Centre (Isle of Dogs) and the Barking Community Birth Centre (Barking). Although not physically connected to a hospital maternity unit, the birth centres work closely with The Royal London and Newham.

At our Birth Centres, we know that the right support and environment can make a huge difference to you and your baby’s experience of labour and birth.

We want all our mums to have safe, positive and confident experiences of pregnancy, labour and childbirth and work hard to make this happen. The combination of our highly experienced midwives and our clean and comfortable facilities, provide a warm, welcome and nurturing stay for all parents and their new babies.

At the Barkantine we have helped mums give birth to over 2000 babies naturally. Our freestanding birth centres can each support up to 600 births a year each.

Our services are available for women who expect to have an uncomplicated pregnancy and who go into labour between 37 and 42 weeks.

If you are interested in having your baby with us, talk to your midwife, GP or you can contact us directly.

Use the links below to naviate to the different sections of this page.

What we offer

Our midwives can take over your antenatal care once you reach 36 weeks.


To help you prepare for labour and birth, we provide:

  • active birth workshops including information on feeding and water birth
  • birth centre tours to familiarise yourself with the centre and rooms
  • 24 hour telephone support and advice


Our highly experienced midwives are trained in active birthing techniques such as water births and the use of varied positions for labour and birth. They are also experienced in supporting hypnobirthing.

All five rooms at Barkantine and two rooms at Barking have birth pools. Every room comes equipped with balls, mats, beanbags and stools.

To help you relax and focus during labour, we provide:

  • one-to-one midwife care
  • midwives experienced with water birth and birth in upright positions
  • clean and welcoming individual rooms where partners can stay. Each of our rooms come fully equipped with ensuite bathroom (some with disabled en-suite facilities), gas and air, (plus Pethidine if required) for pain relief, double bed, cot, sofa or armchair, and CD or iPod facilities, television (Barkantine only) and balcony (Barkantine only)
  • kitchen for women and staff to prepare meals, drinks and formula feeds when required


Once your baby is born, we can support you to establish breast feeding. Our expert breastfeeding counsellors are available to help if you need them. Further support for you during this new phase also includes:

  • postnatal follow-up care from a midwife
  • full newborn assessment within 72 hours of birth
  • 24 hour telephone support and advice
  • baby check clinics
  • local parents group support
  • breastfeeding drop in sessions

Most women who give birth at our birth centres go home within six to 24 hours.


Women can choose who they would like to be with them during labour and birth. We suggest that you keep this to a small number to maintain a calm and quiet environment for birth and to ensure you have the support you need. Please encourage other family and friends to stay at home until you call them with your news as there are limited waiting areas available at the birth centres.

Your partner and your children are welcome to visit at anytime and there are double beds in each room to enable your partner to stay with you and your baby overnight. Other guests wishing to visit you are asked to come between 8am and 8pm.

At busy times the birth centre staff may ask you to limit the amount of visitors present at any one time.

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Why choose a freestanding midwifery unit?

The ‘Birth place study’ research in 2011 found that midwifery units are safe for women with ‘low-risk’ pregnancies. Women who planned to give birth at freestanding midwifery units also had significantly fewer interventions during labour and birth, compared to women who chose obstetric units or alongside midwifery units.

Women who choose birth centres generally have a greater chance of:

  • birthing naturally, with an
  • improved birth experience
  • reduced interventions
  • the need for pain relief decreased
  • higher breast feeding rates

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Complications during labour / after birth

As a midwife-led service, there are no specialist doctors such as obstetricians, paediatricians or anaesthetists on site. For this reason, the freestanding birth centres are only suitable for women with normal, ‘low-risk’ pregnancies.

Our expert midwives are trained to detect problems as they arise and to take action necessary to keep you and your baby safe. They will regularly monitor you and your baby. Any concerns will be explained to you so that you are involved in all plans and decisions made. Often problems occur over a period of time, giving us plenty to time to act on warning signs.

In the event of any concerns or in an emergency women are transferred by ambulance to The Royal London Hospital from Barkantine or Newham University Hospital from Barking Community Birth Centre. Both journeys take approximately 15 minutes by ambulance. One of our midwives will accompany you.

At Barkantine between 2008 and 2013, most transfers were non-emergency. The most common reasons were meconium and prolonged labour.

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Facts about Barkantine

Between 2008 and 2013 there were over 2000 births at the Barkantine Birth Centre. Of these:

  • 83 % of women used upright positions for birth
  • 73% of women used water in labour
  • 43% of women gave birth in water

Of the women who started their labour care at Barkantine:

  • 86% had a normal birth
  • 8% had an instrumental birth
  • 6% had a caesarean section

Transfer rates from the Barkantine during labour and soon after birth:

  • 28% overall (21% during labour / 7% after birth)
  • 42% women having 1st baby (33% during labour / 9% after birth)
  • 10% women having 2nd+ baby (5% during labour / 5% after birth)

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Find out more

If you are considering your birth options, you can find out more by speaking with our midwives during a tour of the centre. You can tour either birth centre after your 20 week scan. To book onto a tour you can either contact us directly, or be referred by your GP or midwife team.

Please allow approximately one hour for the visit, which includes:

  • tour of the whole centre from a midwife
  • viewing of at least one of our rooms
  • question and answer session
  • introduction to our philosophy and how the centre works
  • the process in case of transfer and any emergencies

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Contact us

Barkantine Birth Centre

121 Westferry Road
London, E14 8JH

Tel: 020 7791 8300
Fax: 020 7791 8301

Barking Community Birth Centre

Barking Community Hospital,
Upney Lane,
Barking, IG11 9LX

Tel: 020 3644 2450
Fax: 020 3644 2490

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What parents say

"From the moment I walked through the doors, a sense of complete calm and confidence washed over me. That was because of the relaxing environment and outrageously professional and sympathetic staff." a parent at Barkantine.

"It was also a great relief to know that my husband could stay with me overnight. We stayed for three nights together before feeling confident enough to go home. We were never made to feel like a nuisance." a parent at Barkantine.

I would choose the birth centre again. Although I was transferred it was a lovely experience. I felt central to everything and my birth plan was taken on board” a parent at Barking


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