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The Midwives

Series 1

Episode 3: How the Other Half Push

Duration: 1 hour

First broadcast: on BBC HDLatest broadcast: on BBC Two England

This film explores the wildly contrasting experiences of the community midwives who look after mums on the two opposite sides of the Wirral near Liverpool.

The Wirral is a peninsula, divided in half by a motorway. On the west are million-pound houses, on the east are some of the most deprived areas in the country. There is a 15-year difference in life expectancy between some areas of the east and west Wirral. In the middle is Arrowe Park Hospital. From here the community midwives venture out in their cars to look after the mums on both sides, before and after they have their babies.

Often just 10 minutes' drive from each other, the mums of the Wirral can be polar opposites in wealth, age and expectations. So, for the midwives, their job can be very different according to which side of the motorway they work. On one side, they are trying to help a family who cannot afford a cooker for their home, on the other they are trying to keep up with the latest in hypno-birthing.

In Birkenhead, in the east, midwife Katie is cheerfully dealing with a mix of teen mums, deprivation and social service cases. In the west, midwife Jan sees more anxious, older professional mothers, who are keen to have everything done to plan. Whilst Katie is tracking down absent mums or visiting a mother whose newborn has been taken into care, Jan is running oversubscribed antenatal classes full of anxious mums and preparing to work alongside a privately hired birth partner, or doula.

Through the midwives, the film follows the pregnancies and births of some very different mums, including 18-year-old Rachael who feels worryingly ambivalent about her accidental pregnancy and Sally, a professional older mum with a very detailed plan for the perfect homebirth.

Which of the two sides presents the greatest challenge for the midwives? And are things always so black and white? Some mums do not conform to expectations and there are some things about having a baby that are true wherever you come from. As midwife Katie says 'they all come out the same way don't they?'. Show less

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