Hackney mothers suffer from one of the highest premature birth rates in the country

Matron Janet Bradley, Clinical Director Dr Katrina Erskine, Midwife Phoebe Turnbull, Sister Tola Ade

Matron Janet Bradley, Clinical Director Dr Katrina Erskine, Midwife Phoebe Turnbull, Sister Tola Adeyemi pictured in a delivery room on the Maternity Ward at Homerton Hospital - Credit: Archant

Hackney has one of the highest rates of small and preterm babies in the country with one in three pregnancies having “some sort of risk factor”, a specialist at Homerton Hospital has warned.

Dr Katrina Erskine, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, has said the hospital in Homerton Row, Homerton, delivers a high number of preterm babies (those under 37 weeks old) – increasing the risk of death and illness.

She attributed the problem to a number of factors including social deprivation, health and age. “We have one of the highest rates of very small and very preterm babies in the country. We also deliver a very large number of babies less than 28 weeks old,” she said.

“We have two problems in Hackney. One is our background population experiences social deprivation which leads to low-birth rate and premature deliveries.”

She added: “The other is that women are becoming more obese and are becoming much older when they have their first baby. This means that women are getting pregnant with medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

“Obesity also correlates with social deprivation. Obesity is common in Hackney. We have even set up a group at the hospital for women who are morbidly obese and pregnant.”

She added: “We are also seeing a big increase in women over 40 having their first baby and a big increase in women having fertility help to have their babies.

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“This results in an increase in twins and complicated pregnancies.”

The modernisation of the hospital’s specialist neonatal provision has lead to an increase of referrals to the maternity unit.

Dr Erskine said: “It is a tertiary referral unit which means we get referrals from all over north-east London and wider areas.”

The hospital currently delivers 5,000 babies per year and this will be increasing to 6,000 per year as the Homerton helps out other hospitals in east London. They will be increasing staff numbers to cope with demand.

She attributes the hospital’s success to “a lot of dedicated doctors and midwives who are skilled in looking after high-risk pregnancies”.

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “This is an area of real concern. It has a long-term impact on healthcare. The wider issues of obesity and diabetes are very important in helping to reduce these early births.

“The effect is not just on the parents – children are clearly affected. The long-term affect on a child of pre-term birth is significant and ongoing.”