“Pregnancy and childbirth can be a rollercoaster ride of soaring joy-filled highs and occasional crashing lows. Hormone-fuelled mothers and protective fathers are not always at their best and, particularly in the case of first-time parents, can be overflowing with questions. Into this heady mix, Dr Keith Duncan MBChB MD FRCOG is a breath of fresh air – calm, kind, unfussy and experienced.
Over the last 25 years, he has delivered more than 3,000 babies in different hospitals across the UK. He works as a Consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and is the Director of the Chelsea Birth Clinic and a member of the British Maternal Fetal Medicine Society. But despite all that, he remains utterly down to earth and accessible. As I discovered when I consulted him for the birth of both my sons, in 2011 and 2013. Aged 43, during my first longed-for pregnancy, I was classed a ‘geriatric’ mother. After endless IVF and IUI attempts I was nervy (verging on the neurotic some – my husband included – might say) both about the pregnancies themselves and the births of my sons.
But somehow, with a combination of his gentle calm and northern charm (he was born in Blackpool and studied at Leeds University), Keith succeeded where my well-meaning husband had failed, making everything simple, straightforward and fuss-free. As an expert in fetal medicine – with a special interest in high risk and multiple pregnancies – he performs all the ultrasounds himself, from five or six weeks to term, which provides a rare and comforting continuity, always takeing the time to discuss the scans and patiently answer the myriad of my anxious questions. He is exactly the doctor you want to be delivering your baby, whether for a natural, water, hypno or assisted birth, but particularly (as in my case) an elective Caesarian section. Because as well as his lovely manner and impressive qualifications, his surgical skills, I had been assured by friends, were excellent. Endless delighted mothers commented on Mumsnet and raved about his calm professionalism. They were right.
After Keith’s magic needlework, my physical recovery seemed faster than others in my antenatal class groupe, and my scar was quickly almost invisible. I’m not sure anything can really prepare first time parents for the sterility of the operating theatre; the very medical atmosphere or, most of all, the imminent arrival of your first child. But having experienced childbirth from both sides of the hospital trolley – he and his wife Sharon have a daughter Poppy – Keith knows just how strange, terrifying and wonderful it can be all at the same time and, somehow, helps his patients take the strangeness in their stride and embrace the joy.
He even managed to sooth my husband when a lovingly-prepared birth CD supposedly full of gentle jazz turned out to be completely blank – a more impressive feat, perhaps, than reassuring me during my epidural. More tellingly, after thousands of births at every hour of the day and – more often than not – night, he still considers delivering babies the very best job in the world and experiences a surge of pure happiness at every new arrival. For once there are no pointless frills or fluff – just really helpful and supportive advice on everything from early bleeding to whether you can safely dye your hair during pregnancy; varicose veins to guidance on how to decipher your own medical notes.
Because after 25 years of experience, he knows the questions that new mothers want answering. “