When planning a pregnancy and when pregnancy is confirmed, you may choose to directly contact the SSAFA Community Midwife. You may also choose to see the GP or the Practice Nurse may confirm your pregnancy; they will then refer you to the midwife. During normal working hours you can contact the midwife by telephoning your local Medical Centre and asking for the midwife to return your call. The numbers are:
AKROTIRI MED CENTRE 2527 6553
EPISKOPI MED CENTRE 2596 3255
DHEKELIA MED CENTRE 2474 4512
AYIOS NIKOLAOS MED CENTRE 2395 7596
UNFICYP MIDWIFERY CARE IS PROVIDED BY DHEKELIA MED CENTRE 2474 4512
If you are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant and are posted to Cyprus, there is a medical screening procedure you should go through via the serving person's Chain of Command, to check that the Cyprus facilities acan support your personal and medical/obstetric circumstances.
If you are already pregnant when you arrive in Cyprus, you should register at the Medical Centre as soon as possible and make an appointment to see the midwife. Antenatal bookings are generally undertaken at 6-8 weeks in the Medical Centre or at home. You will be referred by your GP for care under an Obstetrician at the Polyclinic who you will meet at 8-10 weeks when you have your first scan.
The SSAFA midwifery team is managed by the Community Health Manager and is comprised of experienced Community Midwives and LSA appointed Supervisors of Midwives. If you would like to meet with the Community Health Manager or a Supervisor of Midwives to discuss any aspect of your care please ask your midwife for contact details.
Usually the midwife who undertakes your first ‘booking appointment’ will become your named midwife, and will be your main point of contact during your maternity care. Your named midwife will personally undertake many aspects of your care, after explaining the different options, blood tests and screening choices that are offered to you here in British Forces Cyprus. Once you have the information you need, you will be able to make informed decisions about your pregnancy, birth and your baby once born. You will get to meet and come to know other members of the team throughout your care.
The majority of your care will be in the community with your midwife, GP and other members of the Primary Health Care team. Your medical and obstetric history, and how this pregnancy progresses will determine how often you are seen by your consultant. Health professionals providing care for you will record your care in your hand held maternity notes. You will be given these to carry with you throughout your pregnancy, and they will be used at every medical and midwifery appointment. The hand held notes must be returned to the midwife for safe storage after the baby is born and your midwife has discharged you to the care of your GP and Health Visitor.
Preparation for parenting courses run regularly across the command. The midwives hold aquanatal sessions weekly in the ESBA and the WSBA and additional activities such as Buggy Fit are station specific.
PLACE OF BIRTH OPTIONS
Due to local complexities, BFC and the SSAFA midwifery service are unable to provide a planned home birth service in Cyprus. Mothers who deliver in the Polyclinic are generally very happy with the experience, and some go home within a few hours of giving birth. If you feel that homebirth is your only acceptable option, it is best if you plan to return to the UK before you reach 32 weeks gestation.
The majority of women who choose to deliver within British Forces Cyprus will give birth at the Ygia Polyclinic in Limassol. The whole team work hard to provide a safe and friendly service. Although the majority of the staff speak good English, not all do; however, a Hospital Liaison Officer is always available in person or by telephone to assist with language difficulties. You may look around the maternity unit facilities when at the Polyclinic for an antenatal appointment or by arrangement, telephone 2588 4956.
The Polyclinic, though a good hospital, does not have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit / Special Care Baby Unit (NICU / SCBU). Mothers who go into labour prematurely (before 36 weeks gestation), who are expected to have a low birth weight baby or have complex medical needs are better to have a planned birth in a specialist unit, so such cases are transferred to the ABM III hospital in Nicosia. This is the centre of excellence in care of the newborn in Cyprus and their SCBU and NICU meets European standards. In recent years, transfers to ABM lll have meant that about 5% of babies in BFC have been born in Nicosia, which is approximately one and a half hours drive from Akrotiri or Episkopi, and about an hour from Dhekelia or Ayios Nikolaos.
Very occasionally a baby will be born in the Polyclinic who is unexpectedly unwell and needs admission to a SCBU or NICU immediately. In the Polyclinic the staff will provide the immediate specialist care needed, and a specially equipped ambulance to ensure that these babies can be safely transferred to ABM lll. This is because facilities at the Polyclinic do not support long-term care of babies who are unwell.
BFC staff work closely with ABM lll staff to try to overcome the cultural differences that exist between Cypriot and British hospitals. For example, visiting times in Cypriot Government hospitals are much more restricted, doctors and nurses are less willing to have relatives present during procedures, the food is different, the Cypriots have a different approach to breastfeeding and patients sometimes feel that treatment has not been fully explained to them. Although most Cypriot doctors and nurses speak good English, not all do. Nevertheless, Cypriot medical practice is safe and effective and the most important aspect of the experience is the return home of a healthy mother and baby.
For mothers in Dhekelia and Ayios Nikolaos, the journey to Limassol is about an hour and a half to two hours, and labour may progress so quickly that there is a risk of the baby being born on the way there. In such cases mothers go to the local Cypriot hospital in Larnaca. This happens in a handful of cases each year. Treatment in Larnaca is less sophisticated than in Nicosia and the cultural divide is greater, with the result that some mothers have found the experience difficult. However, although often resulting in a short stay, the obstetric practice in Larnaca is safe and effective.
A lot of effort goes into the support of mothers who have their babies somewhere other than the Polyclinic to ensure that there are no misunderstandings because of language, that the welfare needs of the family are met and that the medical care is going well. Even so, the experience is not like being in the Polyclinic or a BritishHospital.
While you are in the hospital, you will have regular visitors to help support you until you are discharged. The personnel who visit you are a Hospital Liaison Officer and a Defence Medical Welfare Officer.
Hospital Liaison Officers are bilingual personnel who are employed in different roles across BFC. They act as Liaison Officers in addition to their primary role and so may not always be able to be physically present to assist with interpretation, but their skills can be utilised by telephone. You will usually be visited daily by an HLO.
The Defence Medical Welfare Officer is also available to assist with welfare issues and will usually ensure they visit you regularly during your hospital stay.
In the postnatal period, when you and your obstetrician feel ready, you will be discharged back to the care of your community midwife, GP and Health Visitor to ensure continuing help, advice and support. The midwife will visit you and your baby / babies at home until discharging you (usually about 10 to 14 days after birth) when your health visitor will again see you to take over care for your baby. Your health visitor will provide you with health and immunisation advice and inform you of parenting and baby / toddler groups in your area. These groups are informative and help you to meet other new parents and share experiences. Often friendships and support made in these groups are long-lasting.
You are warmly invited to join local breastfeeding groups to support your breastfeeding, and to enable you to offer support to others who are also breastfeeding. Your midwife will be able to tell you about the group in your area.