It’s time for a rallying cry “Save the midwife!”. I’ve talked about this already on the podcast, but this week, I’m giving it focus. Save the midwife is a campaign that needs support and not just here in the UK, and not just by midwives.

This is a family issue that affects birthing women directly.

save the midwife

When we hear talk of the oldest profession in the world, many mistakenly think of prostitution – thanks in part to Rudyard Kipling – but that would be wrong. What did society need first? Food? Shelter? Safety? Help birthing our young? Or an outlet for sexually frustrated men? Hmmm….

Midwifery is one of those professions that is as old as we are and appears alongside other professions who perform human rituals. And yet, today in the UK, the profession is being chip chipped away. This makes me mad. VERY mad. Since the begining of time, midwives have been supporting women during their rite of passage from maiden to mother. This transition isn’t always an easy one for women, and yet the presence of midwives can be the difference that makes the difference. A difficult, challenging experience can become an empowering, powerful emergence for a woman when she is supported by her midwife.

Midwifery under threat

Believe it or not the very esssence of midwifery is under threat here in the UK. Unfortunately, many countries around the world look to the UK on midwifery matters, so what happens here counts. I dedicated the first podcast in the current series to independent midwives because I wanted to show support for their plight which kicked off just before Christmas last year. In a nutsell: the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) announced that the insurance level that independent midwives have in place is not sufficient. Although unhelpfully, they have never stated the level of insurance that IS adequate. This resulted in all independent midwives here in the UK being banned from attending births. This meant that women who had hired an independent midwife for their birth now had no-one to support them. So not only did independent midwives suddenlty find themselves without work, but women found themselves without important support. What makes this so shocking is that independent midwives are typically hired by women who feel they need the extra support.

Why hire an independent midwife?

Many people mistakenly believe that independent midwives are a superfluous requirement for women. But that is simply not the case. Here are some reasons that a woman would want to hire an independent midwife.

You want guaranteed continuity of care

This means you want the same midwife (team) to support you throughout your pregnancy, AND be present at your birth and support you during the post-partum period. Here in the UK, it is not guaranteed that the midwife who supports you during your birth will be the same one that you have met with during your pregnancy. The midwife who attends your birth will depend on the available midwives who are on shift. Also, depending on when the shift changes take place, your midwives might change during your labour.

You had a difficult or traumatic previous birth

Understandably, you’re worried about your upcoming birth and need the extra support an independent midwife can offer you. Independent midwives can spend much longer with you during your pregnancy to help you prepare as much as possible.

You want to give yourself the best chance of a positive birth

Continuity of care is shown to improve birth outcomes; reduction in stilborn rates, reduction in miscarriages, reduction in pain levels experienced by women, shorter labours

You want to know the person who will support you at your birth

Birth is a big deal and so it makes sense that you want to know who will be there to support you. But knowing them isn’t always enough. Trust is important too. Some women don’t want to have to worry about whether the midwife who turns up is going to be right for her, and understandably so.

All these seem perfectly adequate reasons for families to hire an indepndent midwife. In fact, you would hope that in a developed country, that the above list is a assumed right of access for a birthing woman. After all it’s fair to assume that she has a right to access a level of care that will increase her chances of a positive birth outcome (based on mountains of evidence). You’d think?! And yet… Not only is this not offered as standard, but now a woman can’t even PAY for it! This right has now been taken away from her.

All this does sound very depressing, and yet I feel hopeful. Midwifery has been around since women have been birthing babies so they’re not going anywhere. Sure, the societal structures that exist around them will change, but there will always be women supporting women, and women can be a feisty lot when they get together. So today’s podcast is a rallying cry to those feisty women out there who give a shit.

Whether you’re pregnant or not, it doesn’t matter.

Whether you’re in the UK or not it doesn’t matter.

Whether you’re a woman or not it doesn’t matter.

Get involved with the Save the Midwife campaign in any way you can because the ripple affect of what is happening will affect someone you know.

In today’s podcast, I’m chatting to Ruth Weston, who is mother, business woman and lactivist. She is the mother of five children, four born at home and in water. She liked her waterbirths so much she took over Aquabirths as a small Yorkshire birth pool hire firm 15 years ago.  Since then she and her husband have grown the business, now, with midwives and doulas, designing pools and soft furniture for the NHS and around the world.  Ruth is passionate about women having good care and a good birth: she set up a Choices in Childbirth group in her home 14 years ago which became a network of similar groups across Yorkshire and beyond with a regular monthly E-newsletter which you can subscribe to here. Ruth helped set up the MSLC in Bradford and Airedale and became its first chair.  Ruth is now turning her considerable determination and energy to the delivery of continuity of midwifery carer and the reform of regulation for midwives – structural reforms she believes necessary for the delivery of humane maternity care for women.

Ruth spoke at the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) recently and shared her vision of a big hairy goal for midwifery. I invited her onto the podcast because I wanted her to share this so that we can all better understand this situation and get behind her.

Save the midwife – Get involved

Here’s how you can get involved to help Save the Midwife no matter where you are in the world.

  1. Sign the petition – this is a numbers game. If you’re not in the UK please add your support
  2. Save our midwives – this site is the home of the campaign
  3. Use Twitter – Make some noise and use the #savethemidwife hashtag.

In the UK?

  1. Save the Midwife demo. This is a live demonstration in central London on May 5th to coicide with International Day of the Midwife.
  2. Write to your MP. There are template letters at saveourmidwives.co.uk. Find your MP here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
  3. Join IMUK, the Independent Midwives professional body as a supporting member. It only costs £20: http://www.imuk.org.uk/professionals/join-imuk/
  4. Complain to the NMC. E-mail complaints@nmc-uk.org. They have less than 20 working days to respond. Make sure you mention it’s a formal complaint so you go straight to Stage 2 of their complaints process. If you don’t like the reply, simply respond back, say you’re not satisfied, why, and then appeal the complaint response, escalating to Stage 3.

Further information

Save our midwives – this site contains everything you need to get involved

The Lancet Series on midwifery

You can find Ruth and contact on Facebook or at ruth@aquabirths.co.uk

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