A maternity unit has closed suddenly, blaming a shortage of staff.
St Peter's Maternity Unit in Maldon has been forced to close temporarily, with hospital bosses admitting it is struggling with staffing.
The closure will be reviewed every two weeks, they say.
As a result, women in the Braintree, Chelmsford and Maldon area of Essex will now only be able to give birth at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, or have a home birth.
If they choose to give birth at Broomfield Hospital, this could result in an over 20-mile round trip for mothers in some parts of the area.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, campaigners fought to keep the maternity unit open, with some now fearing there could be plans for closure again.
Mid & South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which is the largest trust in Essex, runs the unit and provides the third largest maternity service in the country.
A trust spokesperson said: "The safety of the women and babies using our maternity services is our absolute priority."
The trust said it had reviewed staffing levels to make sure it was providing women with "the very highest standards of care".
It added a recruitment campaign was under way to hire more midwives, but in the short term it would concentrate staff in "the right areas".
"For that reason we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend deliveries at our midwifery-led birthing unit at St Peter’s Hospital in Maldon," a spokesperson said.
The closure came into effect on Monday, but the trust said mums who were planning on going to St Peter's still could give birth at the midwifery-led unit at Broomfield Hospital or opt for a home birth.
Antenatal and postnatal outpatient clinics, and antenatal triage services will still run at St Peter's between 9am and 3.30pm for low-risk women.
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