13/11/2009 11:30 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Overweight Women Forced To Travel To Give Birth

Women in Weston-super-Mare with a body mass index (BMI) of over 34, that's 15 stone for a woman of average height, are being sent 20 miles to the nearest fully-facilitated maternity unit at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol.

Weston General Hospital, Somerset, has caused controversy over the admissions policy for its maternity unit.

Carole Welch from the local Slimming World said it was unfair many women could not safely give birth near their home, and called for the hospital to upgrade its facilities.

The Weston Area Heath Trust argue that Weston has a low-risk, midwife-led birth centre and is simply not equipped to deal with the higher risk factors involved in labour where the mother has a high BMI.

A spokesperson for the hospital said "Our midwife-led centre is extremely popular because many women don't want to give birth in a hi-tech unit."

"Our foremost concern is for the safety of mothers who deliver here and their babies. "

But Welsh points out that "Obesity is a growing problem and more women are over 34 BMI. Women who live in the town, no matter what their size, should be able to give birth without travelling miles and miles."

This hospital may be the first of many to review admissions policy given both the popularity of low-tech midwife led birthing units and the growth in the girth of the population.

It is estimated that 29,600 adults are obese and a further 6,000 will be dangerously overweight by 2013.

Whilst it may not seem fair to exclude overweight mothers from certain wards, some would argue, that getting rid of such facilities limits the choices for other pregnant women who have less risky pregnancies.

Is the hospital right to provide different options for safe births or is this a straightforward case of discrimination?