AFTER a 42-year career that has seen her deliver hundreds of babies – and seen fathers vacate the pub in favour of a place in the delivery room – a Huntingdonshire midwife is hanging up her stethoscope.

Merle Granshaw, 65, has been employed as a community midwife at Hinchingbrooke Hospital since she moved to the area in 1991. Originally from Sheffield, Mrs Granshaw started her career as a nurse in 1964 before qualifying as a midwife in 1971 and starting a job with the Royal Air Force.

It was there that she met her husband Stephen, an electrical engineer, and the two travelled around with the RAF. They had three children, Toby, Sally and Tim before settling down in Wyton.

Since moving to Huntingdonshire she has worked all across the district helping mums-to-be in Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots. But having played a crucial roll in so many families' lives and having inspired and mentored the next generation of midwives, Mrs Granshaw retired yesterday (Tuesday).

"It has been amazing and an absolute privilege but all good things must come to an end," she said. "To be there with the parents at such a special moment of their lives has been incredible."

Mrs Granshaw has seen many changes in the profession since she started in the 70s - including the greater involvement of fathers at the birth.

"I'm so old that I can remember when dads didn't go in the delivery room, it was tradition for them to be in the pub - now I think they feel duty bound to be there."

Another change, she added, was that women were often a lot more well informed about giving birth and that television shows like One Born Every Minute had helped. However, she said that the show - which follows the birth process in a hospital environment - can often cause fears for future parents.

"I think it can scare women sometimes because of the way it is filmed, but it also opens up discussions about what you need and want to know. It helps the dads as well sometimes as they want to ask questions and they can bring up things on the show that concern them and we can talk about it."

Mrs Granshaw, whose husband died in 2003, attempted to retire four years ago but went back to midwifery part-time because she missed the job.

Now she says she is ready to leave the job to spend time with her grandchildren Sophie and Ross and to become a full-time gardener.