EXPECTANT mums are being let down by a Taunton birthing centre because of a shortage of midwives, says the UK’s biggest parenting charity.

Members of NCT’s Taunton branch say the Bracken Birth Centre at Musgrove Park Hospital has recently had to limit its services and they are campaigning to ease the strain on staff after a spike in the birth rate.

The midwife-led unit, which focuses on natural births for women with low-risk pregnancies, can sometimes only admit one woman at a time despite having three birth rooms, and can be closed entirely when the main maternity ward is busy.

As a result, some women originally booked to give birth there have been turned away.

Now, the NCT committee is offering its support and has started a petition calling on the Government to provide more midwives so the centre can keep its doors open for longer.

Sarah Harcombe, NCT Birth Companion (doula) said: “Bracken is a fantastic facility and it’s disappointing to see it not being used to its full potential.

“We know many local women wish to use the centre, but this choice is being taken away from them because there aren’t enough midwives to run it as designed.

“Up to four times the current number of women could be birthing their babies at the centre.”

Musgrove’s head of midwifery, Debra Young, met NCT members to assure them that the team is taking steps to make better use of the facility.

She said: “So far this month we’ve seen an increase in the number of women who have given birth in the centre, which is a really positive indication that these changes are beginning to be successful.

“At times when the labour ward is very busy and there are no labouring women using the Bracken Birthing Centre we do temporarily re-deploy midwives from Bracken.

“This allows our midwives to safely care for and support women who are labouring on the labour ward.

“This does then mean access to Bracken is temporarily ‘restricted’ should a labouring woman then wish to be admitted, but we try to ensure that this happens as little as possible by supporting the Bracken service with community on-call midwives.

“Our overall aim is to ensure that all women who chose to give birth on Bracken have the opportunity to do so.”

One mother who gave birth at Bracken said: "I couldn't have asked for a better birth. The birthing pool and midwives kept me calm and relaxed.

"Equally the care I received afterwards from the midwives and health care assistants was fantastic.

"I would be devastated if I couldn't have any future deliveries at Bracken."

Online and paper petitions have already received over 800 signatures. To support the campaign click here.