SEVEN babies have been born in one month since a maternity unit reopened after fears it was going to close permanently.

The Wantage Community Hospital’s Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) closed in February for building work, and remained closed for nine months due to staff shortages.

Weeks after reports that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) could not guarantee the unit would reopen, the trust announced the MLU would be open again in November.

And, in the early hours of November 27, the day after the unit reopened, the first mother-to-be was welcomed.

Katie Swatton, 19, from Grove, came to the unit at 1.20am on November 27, and gave birth to her daughter Isabelle Stephens at 7am.

She said: “I was so glad it was open. It is nice to have somewhere so close to home.”

She said that the service was fantastic, and she was even given toast to eat during the labour, and a chicken pie for lunch the following day.

The MLU’s eight midwives help deliver 100 babies every year in the unit’s two beds. They also provide antenatal and postnatal care and help with home births.

Gemma Littlechild, 25, from Faringdon, gave birth to her son Harvey on December 5 at the Wantage MLU after being sent home from Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

She and her husband Michael, 28, a roof tiler, went to the JR at 1am after she went into labour, but were told they would not need to come back until 7pm.

By the time they got back home, Mrs Littlechild said she was fully dilated and in pain.

Mr Littlechild called the Wantage MLU and was told to get there as soon as possible, and Harvey was born there at 3.45pm.

The proud dad said: “It was awesome, we had two midwives to ourselves.”

Sarah Bolton, 34, from Letcombe Regis, already had one young daughter at home when she gave birth to her son Bradley on December 9, so she did not want to travel far . She said: “This was absolutely my first choice.

“My daughter is two-and-a-half, so it was convenient to know I would not be far away from her. It is a nice environment and I already had a relationship with the midwives here.

“I don’t think I would have made it to the John Radcliffe in time.”

OUH head of midwifery Jane Hervé said there is a drive for midwifery-led care in the county.

She said: “The benefit of the Wantage MLU is that it is focused on care in the community, and that it is so close to home.”

The unit also has a birthing pool, worth £10,000, which was installed thanks to a donation from the Wantage Hospital League of Friends.

Wantage county councillor Jenny Hannaby said: “I’m totally delighted that the unit is open and I look forward to seeing its refurbishment in the coming months.

“As chairwoman of the Wantage Hospital League of Friends, I will work with the maternity unit to make sure the patients have the very best surroundings when they give birth to their babies in the future.”