A NEW policy for maternity services in Huddersfield and Calderdale means that the majority of pregnant women will be cared for by midwives rather than consultants during their pregnancy.
The aim is to reduce the number of ante-natal hospital visits for those enjoying a normal pregnancy, which 75% of women do.
"Most women don't need to come to hospital and have the attentions of an obstetrician," says Shona Hamilton, the lead obstetrician for ante-natal care in Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust.
" They shouldn't have to struggle up to the hospital to keep appointments, simply to have their blood pressure and a urine sample taken, have their tummy prodded and then go home.
" There is such a thing as white coat hypertension, when people experience a rise in blood pressure because they are in a hospital. We don't want to make abnormal a perfectly normal, healthy pregnancy.
"By seeing a midwife in the community, in most cases at their GP's surgery, they will be able to talk about issues that are concerning them and the midwives should have more time to spend with them," she added.
Women will make regular visits to see their midwife but overall will have slightly fewer ante-natal appointments.
The move away from hospital ante-natal care is one of the recommendations of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.
Huddersfield has already taken steps to implement the measure and now Calderdale is following suit.
Another recommendation by the institute was that women should see a health care professional much earlier in their pregnancy - at six or seven weeks.
"Seeing people early is one of the biggest changes. We just want to be in a position to give women the care they need. We want to be able to monitor conditions like diabetes or epilepsy," said Shona.
All women will then be seen at home by a midwife at 12 weeks gestation to talk about what type of care they would like.
"It's all about patient choice," added Shona, "if someone really wants to come to hospital throughout their pregnancy and see a consultant then they can.
" But for most women, with no problems, this just isn't necessary.
"Pregnancy care has become very medicalised over the last 30 years or so. In the past ante-natal clinics were huge, with women waiting to see consultants, while in the community we had midwives with experience.
"If you are healthy the best person to care for you is the midwife, keeping obstetric care for those who need it."
The move away from hospital care, however, does not mean that more women want home births.
At present around 1% of the 5,000 babies born in Calderdale and Huddersfield each year are born at home. This figure has been fairly static for a number of years and is not expected to rise.