In this episode, I’m am joined by the incredible Mars Lord, doula and activist dedicated to improving the birthing experiences of black and brown-bodied women.

Ethnicity scans for women of colour

Mars will shine a light on a pressing issue: ethnicity scans. We’ll delve into the controversy surrounding ethnicity scans, their potential risks and benefits, and the systemic racism that underlies their implementation.

We dive deep into the challenges faced by black and brown-bodied women within the healthcare system and explore ways to navigate these hurdles and ensure a fear-free childbirth.

Here are some key questions that we explore during our conversation:

  • How does systemic racism contribute to poor healthcare outcomes for black and brown-bodied people, specifically during the perinatal period?
  • What are some specific examples of discrimination and mistreatment experienced by black and brown-bodied pregnant women within the healthcare system?
  • How does chronic stress and anxiety, along with systemic issues, contribute to the high rates of maternal mortality among black and brown women?
  • What are some potential solutions for improving the birthing experiences and healthcare outcomes for black and brown-bodied women?
  • How can healthcare providers be better equipped to address the specific healthcare needs and concerns of black and brown-bodied women?
  • What role does self-advocacy play in navigating the healthcare system as a black or brown-bodied pregnant woman?
  • How can education and awareness surrounding ethnicity scans be increased to empower black and brown-bodied women to make informed decisions about their care?
  • How can the healthcare system shift its focus from technology-centred care to women-centred and evidence-based care?
  • What steps can be taken to ensure that the voices and experiences of black and brown-bodied women are listened to and heard within the healthcare system?
  • In what ways can the healthcare system address and dismantle systemic racism in order to provide equitable and quality care for all women, regardless of their ethnicity?

Resources mentioned during the episode

Here are some of the resources and materials mentioned during this episode that you can use to address your fears and anxieties related to childbirth and pregnancy:

  1. Mama Ship Program: a valuable resource for pregnant individuals and new mothers. It is a membership program where you’ll get access to exclusive podcast episodes and interviews, empowering birth stories, expert advice, a supportive community of like-minded individuals, and a wealth of knowledge and support to help you navigate your unique birth experience. This community that prioritises evidence-based care, advocates for women-centred birthing experiences, and provides a safe space to share concerns, questions, and support.
  2. Mary Cronk’s Phrasebook:
  3. BRAIN. BRAIN is an acronym used to help pregnant women make informed decisions about their healthcare during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting. It stands for benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, and nothing.
  4. Mars discussed a cheat sheet that women can use to help them better navigate difficult conversations during healthcare appointments should they be offered ethnicity scans, or indeed any other procedure. This cheat sheet is available for download in the Mama Ship.

Episode Timestamps

00:00:23 Podcast discusses ethnicity scams and birth
00:06:33 Ethnicity scans offered to combat health disparities
00:11:19 Disparity in healthcare for black and brown women
00:14:34 Discrimination against black and brown bodies
00:21:18 Lack of evidence-based care affects women
00:23:00 Legal inquiry panel looks at black experiences
00:29:36 Neglecting women, favouring technology in healthcare
00:33:53 Ineffective communication creates lack of choice
00:35:14 Questioning medical procedures for better informed decisions
00:39:08 Medical negligence leads to devastating consequences for women
00:42:07 Advocate for clarity and informed decision-making
00:47:26 Mars shares tips for handling unwanted procedures

Ethnicity Scans with Mars Lord – Episode Transcript

Alexia [00:00:01]:

You’re listening to the Fear-Free Childbirth podcast with me, Alexia Leachman. Let me help you take the fear out of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, with a mix of real-life stories and experts sharing their wisdom. I’ll also be sharing psychology insights to help you cultivate a fearless mindset. Be inspired and be empowered with fear-free childbirth. And now it’s time for the show.

Alexia [00:00:23]:

Hello, and welcome back to the Fear-Free Childbirth podcast. My name is Alexa Leachman. Thank you so much for joining me today. Now, on today’s show, I’m going to be joined by Mars Lord, and we’re going to be diving into the topic of ethnicity scans. Now, if you’re not aware of what they are, let me just quickly tell you. They are the scans that women who are black and brown-bodied are being encouraged to have in many cases needlessly, during their pregnancy. So we’re going to be diving into this topic, and Mars is going to be sharing more about what this is about and how women can navigate this situation during their pregnancy journey.

But before we dive into that chat, I just want to talk more about my mama ship, which is basically an extended vault of the Fear-Free Childbirth podcast. So if you enjoy listening to the podcast and you just want more of it, and I know that many of my listeners just want more episodes because they’re binging on it. They just want more content that’s going to inspire them and make them feel empowered as they’re facing this journey to motherhood. So if that’s you, I have got your back. My mama ship is a super low-cost membership, for only £7 a month, which is $9 a month. And for that, you get loads of extra podcast content. All my unpublished episodes are in there. Over the years, I’ve done loads of summits and challenges and interviews and Facebook lives and all sorts of things, and I’ve brought all my interviews together in one place. I’ve also got some really interesting video interview series on things like expecting multiples and breastfeeding. So if you really want to dive into learning more about everything that you can as you’re going on this journey, learning about birth, pregnancy, becoming a new mother, and you really just want to soak it all in in a way that is not going to terrify you, not scare you. So if you want more of this, then the Fear-Free Childbirth Mama ship is exactly what you need. Now I don’t know if you remember that in my first episode back when I was talking about how you can alleviate fear. If you’ve got mild to moderate levels of fear, then the best way for you to do that is just to inform yourself. Start learning about birth and start learning about pregnancy and motherhood so that you can start addressing some of the unknowns that are in your mind that could be feeding your fear. And that’s what this mamaship is really designed for, to help you to just really absorb as much information as possible with loads of entries. And, actually, there’s a load of birth stories in there. Like, loads and loads on video as well with mamas breastfeeding and the ones. And so if that’s what if that sounds like something for you, then the mamaship is you. The other thing I put in the mamaship, because I know there are many people listening that have bought my book series birthing and are trying to clear their own fears. And so if that’s you, there are some videos and things in there also to help you to make sure that you’re using the fear clearance method that I’ve developed correctly and that you can get results in clearing your fears. So if this sounds like something that you want to find out more about, then just head over to, and you’ll be able to find out more about it.

Okay. So I want to get back to today’s interview with Mars. Now Mars has been on the podcast before. And when she was on the podcast before, she talked about expecting twins. And in fact, Mars has done a three-part video series for me inside the mamaship. So she is absolutely fantastic because she’s been a doula for many, many, many years, but she’s also an activist and really trying to change the face of birth, especially for black and brown-bodied women. And so you may have heard of her. You may have heard her on national radio in the UK. She’s frequently speaking at conferences, and she is absolutely superb and has got a lot of insight and wisdom to share. And so today on the podcast, she’s going to be really helping us to better understand a new thing that’s really been happening lately in the world of birth, and that is ethnicity scans. where women of color are being encouraged, in inverted commas, to have more scans than they necessarily need. And so it’s really important for you to understand what’s going on here and how to navigate it and how to say no in a way that makes you still feel like you’re in control of and not annoying everybody in the process. So if you are expecting a baby and you’re worried that this might be in your future, then this episode is going to be exactly what you need to listen to.

Here’s the time that I spoke to Mars all about ethnicity scans.

Welcome to the podcast, Mars. How are you doing?

Mars: I’m doing wonderfully well, and it’s so good to see you as well.

Alexia: It’s so good to get back together and to hear about what you’re talking about in the birth world today. So for those that don’t know you, and shock horror if they don’t because we have spoken before on the podcast, and you are prolific in the birth world in making noise on important issues, but just in case people have missed all of that, just tell us a little bit about who you are.

Mars [00:05:36]:

So I’m Mars Lord. Mars like the planet, not the chocolate, because I am the goddess of war. And I am a life coach and a birth and reproductive justice activist. I worked for the best part of 2 decades as a doula, and now I train doula’s birth companions. But I like to think that I’m a life coach and a very mouthy birth activist.

Alexia [00:06:06]:

Very mouthy. So, what is your current, because I know we touched base before we have a chat. I knew that there would be something that we could talk about, and I’m really interested in the latest thing that you’re making a bit of noise about, which I think everybody needs to hear more about. So just what is your latest rant? Let’s call it that.

Mars [00:06:33]:

Oh, my latest rant, the thing that has me just wanting to try my hardest to stay out of prison is ethnicity scans.

Alexia: Okay. So talk me through what is an ethnicity scan. I can’t even say it properly.

Mars: Well, so I only heard about them a few weeks ago. And, apparently, they’ve been going for a little while. And an ethnicity scan is a scan that’s given to black and brown-bodied people. low-risk people in the last weeks of their pregnancies. Now some people are like, great that they get extra scans, but we’re not even going to think about the fact that no one actually knows the effects of multiple scans on a body and a baby. So we’re not going to go into that bit because what I’m ranting about is this. they’re being offered, and I use the word offered really lightly, they’re being offered these scans, as in my opinion, a way to combat the disparities, the maternal health disparities between black-bodied and white-bodied people. So currently, and we don’t have this year’s stats yet. Oh, the statistics are always 3 years behind. So we don’t have the last 3 years yet. That is due out in October, November time. So, currently, Black-bodied people are 3.7 times more likely to die in the perinatal period. Pregnancy, childbirth, and up to a year after. Micronesian people, of course, ethnicity keep changing in the checkboxes. So there’s possibly some pledging of figures going on there as well. Because when they don’t know the ethnicity, they just tick Caucasian, so we don’t know what the true figures are there. Last year or about 18 months ago, the National Institute for Clinical Health Excellence and NICE. Drafted and started to propose and put out a guideline that said black and brown-bodied women alongside of fat women, disabled women, and people, etcetera. Regardless of risk should be induced at 39 weeks. Now inducing at 39 weeks makes no sense if all is going well with your pregnancy. There was a huge uproar, nice withdrew the guidance, the hospital trust, held onto it for dear life. And that is where the extra scans, the ethnicity scans have come from, I think, and I’m still investigating this, and I’m still waiting for people to come back to me to say, this is the why. This is why we’re doing this. So I was talking to someone whose client has been having ethnicity scans for the past 6 weeks, and they are just coming up to 40 weeks pregnant.

You say scans. How many?

Over 6 weeks. 1 a week. What? Okay. So it’s like Okay. You have to have weekly scans. Why? Because she has to. And if she doesn’t like them, then she can talk to her doctor and explain why she doesn’t want to have them. So this isn’t an offer.

Alexia [00:10:14]:

No, doesn’t sound like it.

Mars [00:10:17]:

And then I’ve heard from other people who are being told they need to have the scan at 39 weeks. Sorry. Did I say need? They’ve offered them this scan at 39 weeks. When the people have said, no, thank you, they’ve been told we need to make you an appointment with the doctor so that you can explain to the doctor why you don’t want to have this scan. And also so that we can book in your induction date.

Alexia [00:10:50]:

There’s so much there that I’m now getting a little bit annoyed about. Let’s just dive into some of that. What’s the premise? That they’re being offered these scans? I mean, are they saying, well, you need to have these scans in inverted commas? I don’t know. We want to keep track of your health. We want, you know, we really want to help with maternal mortality.

Mars [00:11:19]:

That’s what we’re not getting. We’re not seeing any information about that. Okay. They’re being told they have to have this scan. Otherwise, they need to talk to the doctor about why they don’t want to have the scan. Now when NICE put out their initial guidelines, people have said, well, this would be great because it will help us discover why black-bodied people are dying at greater rates. But what everyone neglects to note is the fact that white-bodied women and black-bodied and brown-bodied women are dying of the exact same causes. So it’s not a cause that is specific to black and brown-bodied people. But the reason there is a greater disparity in the rates is because black and brown people are not listened to, not heard, deemed to have higher pain thresholds, being told constantly it’s the fault of their own body because they are predisposed to diabetes, cardiac issues, respiratory issues, etcetera. But there’s no looking at the life arc of black women and saying, oh, You live in a state of semi-constant chronic stress, therefore your cortisol levels are higher. Therefore, your body is pumping out extra insulin or hello diabetes because of these things. And then you’re coming into a system that’s decided that your body is inherently flawed and therefore can’t birth well. So we’re gonna put you on a high-risk pathway. And just to make sure that we see what’s going on, let’s collect some data by giving you extra scans.

Alexia [00:13:13]:

And also let’s cover our butts in case something happens, and we can, therefore, say that we’ve done everything we can to help you on your journey. Yes. Also.

Mars [00:13:24]:

And so to me, that speaks of science, Eugenics, which says that black and brown bodies are inherently inferior. And yet, The contradiction is that black and brown-bodied people are the global majority. So if their bodies were inherently flawed when it comes to pregnancy and birth, surely we would be the global minority.

Alexia [00:13:57]:

Yeah. I, to be honest, I’m a little bit speechless because it’s shocking. Actually, what you’re sharing with me, that this is going on, that it’s deemed acceptable to treat black and brown-bodied women in this way because their bodies are not inferior. We are born to birth babies. Yeah. Full stop. Okay. We have that innate capacity as women to do that. And I, I really, no one’s gonna be able to convince me that the color of your skin is gonna have an effect on that.

Mars [00:14:34]:

Right? Because it’s just a few extra levels of melanin. Right. And that has no effect on your body’s ability to do the things that it does. It seems in the same way it’s ridiculous to assume that black people can’t swim. or run. They’re terrible runners. Right. But to make that assumption about a whole group of people, you wouldn’t make that assumption about a whole group of white people because we know that we are all individuals and none of us are monoliths. But it’s easier to put the blame on the black and brown body than to look at where the failings are within the system. So rather than looking at systemic and structural racism, rather than looking at the way medicine is taught. I still have midwives that tell me that their supervisor has told them that they’re gonna have to pay special attention to how they give injections and put cannulas in black and brown skin because it’s really tough. Whilst talking to a tattoo artist who has been doing this for many years, who says, actually, I tell people to be careful with brown skin because it’s so delicate but the medical model says it’s really hard and tough. So it’s going to be difficult to treat them. The medical books and doctors and the teaching and education that comes down says, that black people have higher levels of pain thresholds. So their pain threshold is higher, Therefore, they don’t need the analgesic support that others do, or when somebody black or brown speaks up, they’re accused of being angry and aggressive. And people say, well, you sound angry, most I’m like, well, of course, I sound angry because black-bodied people are up to 5 times more likely to die in the perinatal period. there might believe people. And if that doesn’t make you angry, please explain to me why not? So when you support people and they’re being told, you can’t do the things that you want to do. So all the wonderful work that you do, for example, about oh, I can never say tokophobia. Did I say tokophobia? That’s it. Yeah. Oh, I keep thinking it’s a longer word. All the work that you do about tokophobia, if somebody black says, I have got this, don’t be ridiculous. You’re just making a fuss. You’re not complying with the things that we’ve told you. Black and Brown-bodied people are far more likely to have social services called to them for the way they birth and care for their children than white-bodied people. Because you’re being aggressive. You’re not listening to me. You’re not doing what I say. If you don’t do what I say, then you don’t want the best for your baby. Like, I want the best for your baby. Therefore, let’s bring in an external agency to make sure you comply. So instead of looking at the systemic structure racism, let’s just decide that it’s your fault. Your body is flawed. So we need to find out, and we need to go back to race science that tells us this is so with no evidence, and we need to find a way to gather the evidence. And that’s where my thought is at the moment. They’re gathering evidence to prove a flawed premise.

Alexia [00:18:19]:

So you’re saying there’s no evidence at all around the whatever the things that they’re dying for of more in birth during that period. There’s that the there’s no evidence about that there’s anything that they’ve got inherently within them that would lead to that. There’s no evidence around the skin thing that you talked about in terms of injections or treatment. Is there any evidence around the pain threshold?

Mars: No. No.

Alexia: So there’s no evidence to support anything. That they’re talking about or suggesting.

Mars [00:18:55]:

Yeah. It just comes from eugenics and white supremacy. Oh, said everyone, oh my god. I can’t believe she brought that into the conversation. That’s not true. But if I say it this way, there is no evidence that women are more emotional and hysterical than men simply because they have ovaries and a womb. You understand that. So why should a few extra levels of melanin in skin mean that your body is incapable? And again, I just remind people the reports that have come out about the disparities clearly state that these people are dying of the exact same causes. So what’s the difference? The differences in the way they’re treated, the way they’re listened to and heard, or the way that they’re ignored or swept aside. So if we bring in these extra scans, we can say, look, we’re trying to solve the problem, but the problem isn’t the extra scan because there are wonderful, midwives out there, research midwives, like Doctor Sarah Wickham, Doctor Sarah Wickham, sorry, and, midwife thinking, Rachel Reed, who talk about there’s no evidence that extra scans prevent anything or tell you anything.

Alexia [00:20:35]:

Well, if anything, they’re damaging.

Mars [00:20:37]:

Yeah. Because they’re more likely to put you on this high-risk car. Now the caveat is there are some people who, because of what’s been going on in their pregnancy, whatever shade of skin they are. These extra scans are looking for something specific and keep an eye on it. For example, twin to twin transfusion. Right? So that you can see what’s happening to the baby. But if someone is low risk, doesn’t have any of these complications, why do they need extra scans just because of the color of their skin?

Alexia [00:21:18]:

There are two things, like two directions I want to talk to you out or 2 two ways. I’m really the big piece here, you talk a lot about the systemic problems that are going on, which is absolutely. And I think that the lack of evidence-based care is for all women as well as the black and brown. That happens, you know, putting women on their back. We know that that isn’t supported by evidence. I mean, the whole way that women are treated with our system is there’s no evidence to back any of this up if it was. Women would be treated very, very differently during that perinatal period. So I think we can all buy into that. But then the whole idea as well of this, the way that women are treating it and how that plays into the emotional aspect, which with all the work that I do and that you’re being very much aware of as a doula is when you are dealing with high levels of stress, anxiety, fear, all about that. The wrong hormones start coming out to play, which is really just gonna mess up birth, which means you’re more likely to end up in complications, more likely gonna have problems. And so the emotional state that you’re dealing with is gonna send you down a more difficult birth experience. But black and brown women are just dealing with that on a chronic level. Yeah. They’ve got natural birth fears that might be coming up as a result of whatever’s going on from the pregnancy. And then they’ve got the sort of day to day stuff that they have to deal with, that they’ve had to deal with forever. Also, so when you put all that together, plus the systemic problem. I mean, problems not even a good enough word for what’s going on. I don’t think. You know, no wonder we’ve got what’s going on in terms of internal mortality rates in that group of people.

Mars [00:23:00]:

And so last year, the birthrights ran a legal inquiry panel. I was on the panel where we looked at the lived experiences of black and brown-bodied people, black women particularly, where we looked at the lived experiences of the black midwives and doctors. And the report is called, Systemic Racism, not Broken Bodies. Right? Because the assumption has always been, well, it’s got to be the problem of black people’s bodies why this is happening. And through that report, through that document, you have got lots of evidence as to how human rights are being breached. For black and brown-bodied people listening to their lived experience of people, people who are saying I was ignored. I wasn’t treated well. And this is where people say, yeah, but I was ignored, and I wasn’t treated well, and I’m white. And it’s like, yes. And yet for the black body people, that extra level of not listening, the systemic racism is what pushes them even further from the support that they want and they need. And I really do think that this is a knee jerk response just like the nice guidelines that tried to say or said all black people should be induced at 39 weeks. It’s a knee jerk reaction to not have to say, okay, let’s look at this system that we have. Let’s look at why these people are having such poor experiences. And some of them will say, well, my doctor, my midwife was really nice. However, So let’s look at that because Jenny Joseph is an NHS trained midwife who’s in Florida who opened the first Black certified midwifery school. And there is so much that people can learn from her. Because she does one simple thing. She listens. The midwives that she trains, they listen to the people that they’re serving. And so her rates of poor outcome are negligible.

Alexia [00:25:26]:

I mean, that it’s so simple, the solution, that it’s staggering, that it’s not being I mean, that we there’s just no excuse. Yeah. But anybody that trains to be a human being, a decent human being is that.

Mars [00:25:40]:

And, of course, if you are looking for the problem in the black or brown body, it keeps you in the comfort of altruism and feeling that you are doing good things because it is deemed worse to be called racist than to actually be racist. And so if I can just protect myself, and step myself back and say, but look at what I’m doing for you, then I don’t have to look at my unconscious biases, the things that I’ve been taught, that I’ve taken as beliefs. I don’t have to go through the discomfort of dismantling that inside of myself to enable me to step into my full humanness and treat you with the same grace and dignity that I automatically treat others with.

Alexia [00:26:37]:

Now I’m wondering if, the outcomes differ globally. I mean, when you’re talking about the data and you speak about this, you’re speaking from a UK perspective, or is this a UK and a US perspective? In the US perspective. And I just wonder if this is something that we just see everywhere because of racism, or are there some countries or some pockets that, you know, you still have spoken of Danny Joseph? There are some places where it’s not being seen in that way or there are there is there isn’t this difference going on.

Mars [00:27:12]:

So people often harp on about socioeconomic. But what studies have shown, and we’re trying really hard to gather when I say we, me and other birth activists like me are trying to get together some global statistics. Because we know that when socioeconomic status is equal, so including the continent of Africa and Asia, etcetera. then we know that people born and raised on the African or Asian continent have much better outcomes than black or brown people born and raised in the northern hemisphere in this Western world of ours. Because so I have friends that talk about when they go to visit Ghana or when they step into the Caribbean, they’re like, oh, and they exhale. Because they’re not seen as black. They’re not racialised as black. They’re people. But here in the Western world, people are racialised as black and brown and treated accordingly. So it’s not because their body is black or brown, but it’s because they’re seen as black and brown, where the systemic structural racism hits.

Alexia [00:28:38]:

And I think what adds to that is the fact that birth in the west is just over-medicalised. Yes. Anyway, and is within a medical system. Anyway, like if you go to Africa, they’re not. They’re just birthing in the gut, you know, home with it among women being supported by the women in the community or being moved into hospitals based on Western models from yesteryear. Right. So but they tend to be I don’t know. I feel like also like in Asia when women are birthing, you know, the level of fear, certainly in the research that I’ve been looking at is the level of fear is just not the same. I think in the west in Western Europe and the US, we’re just really good at getting it wrong when it comes to birth. by sort of shoe-horning every lead through this medical model, but it’s the system is just not built for it. They were making women experience. See where that’s not, and we’re putting them through conditions that are just not conducive. Yeah. And it’s not women-centred care based on evidence.

Mars [00:29:36]:

But it’s technology-centred care. Right? Yeah. because we’d rather look at what the computer screen says, what the scan says than listen to the people that we’re working with. Now I love doctors and midwives, and I know that I’m so grateful to be where the technology is such that people can step in and do better at saving your life. But when we neglect to listen to human beings, when we neglect to put the birthing person in the center of the care, well, no wonder we’re in a place where cesarean rates are over 30% and heading very rapidly towards 50%. where I remember, so my oldest is 30. And I remember when inductions were just sort of relatively rare unless there was a medical reason. And now everyone I talked to says, oh, yeah. I’m gonna go and talk about when to book my date. What do you need an induction for? Why is there an induction date? Oh, yes. Because it’s about math’s measurement and timing as Mark Harris says in his book. We’ve got to you can only labour for this amount of time. Otherwise, we need to get involved because something’s clearly gone wrong. you can only be pregnant for this amount of time because we’ve decided that that’s the length of time that you can have. And there’s no way you can birth your baby yourself, even the language that means I’ve delivered 100 of babies, have you? Well, in a basket, in a box, it would be how you deliver these babies. And so the language that we use, and now I’ve noticed more and more that people don’t say estimated due dates. They’ve dropped the estimated. Your baby’s due date is. And I think you mean estimated because there’s like a 5-week window. People with the exact same gestational date. There’s this 5-week window when the baby can be born. So this due date so there’s this pressure to have your baby on the due date. And you know what? You’re looking a little bit tired. Why don’t we just induce you and bring this along? Oh, your baby’s a bit small, so we’ll induce you. Oh, your baby’s a bit big, so we’ll induce you. And of course, you know, and what we’re finding now, I think I think it was a Sarah Wickham study. I have a friend, AJ, who’s writing a book about Fat Birth, that but with quotes around it. Birth isn’t more risky than skinny birth, but Let’s make everything fit this small little, like you say, shoe horn them into this small narrow system. and then sit back and go, goodness me. Wonder why it doesn’t work? Yeah.

Alexia [00:32:45]:

Wonder why oh, no. Well, that’s because we’re all different. Yeah. No. So I’m just wondering, so so women that are facing this. Yeah. like, when I was it’s not the same at all, but I was told, yeah, you’re gonna be into use because you’re old. So, yeah, come in, and we’ll talk about it. So it’s a similar kind of conversation. And I’m like, Why? So I went in to, like, you know, to pander to their desires, ready and armed with all my data to say that, you know, no. My placenta wasn’t about to die. Yeah. Stop sustaining my baby. And I wasn’t listening to silver. You know, like, I was armed to the teeth with my data. I walked in with my iPad on the arkham website loaded up with all my tabs. of everything that I had. And I said, okay. So I well, I’m here really to find out from you why I need to have this induction. What’s, where’s the evidence that supports you saying that this isn’t what I need to do? Yeah. And that’s when I got, like, the fish look, you know, like, kind of like, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, you know, what I’m not used to dealing with people like you. It’s like, well, people who want evidence-based care. Well, then you’re clearly working in the wrong place with the wrong people.

Mars [00:33:53]:

Or the way that you’ve been treating people from the moment they’ve registered with you, you have been teaching people that they do not ask questions. I remember my daughter, going with my daughter to of booking in her booking in appointment. And the midwife that was doing stuff sit at, and then on this date, you’ll do this and you’ll do this and we’ll do this and you’ll do this. And I said, does she not get a choice in these? She oh, yes. Of course, she does. I said, oh, because it’s funny because you didn’t frame it as a choice. So, no, no, no, you know, she can decline. I said, yes, but you didn’t frame it as a choice. You said, she will she will she will she will. You didn’t say, and you have the option to, and here’s why you might like it, and here’s why you might not like it. And I think by the time people get to the induction stage, so like I said, with the ethnicity scan, If you decline it, you’re being told, well, you need to talk to the doctor about why you’re declining it. But there’s nothing that’s being given that says, Here is why you might have it.

Alexia [00:35:04]:

So how can women who are facing this navigate this without losing their minds? With self-edit.

Mars [00:35:14]:

Absolutely. Well done. That’s self-edit. So this is where those really simple tasks it’s like brains, the acronym works. So you ask the doctor, the midwife. What’s the benefit of this scan? What’s the risk of this scan? What are the alternatives? Listening to your support, does my instinct say? what if I do nothing and say no? And what does the science say? Ask the questions and always, always, always get them to write your question in the notes, in your notes and their answer in the notes. And I decided that recently because I think, well, it’s easy to write notes that sound like you’ve had a conversation. But if you write the actual question, and the answer that you give in the notes, I think they will answer with a lot more generosity. And the implied coercion will leave the room because your notes are a legal document, and they take so many notes to keep themselves safe in a court of law. So I think, ask them to record your question and record their answer. And I also think because this is how annoyed with it all I am. I also think just press record on the audio app in your phone. Oh, brilliant. So many times, people say, I never said that. Okay. Well, Let’s have a little look at what you did say. You did say that my baby would die, if I wasn’t induced, and you couldn’t give me the reason why. And I asked if it was true. I mean, going back years, I’ve always thought when someone’s been told you need to come in to be induced because your baby will die if. I always think, okay. If my baby’s about to die, why on earth are we waiting to induce me rather than wheeling me to theatre and taking my baby out. I’m tired of women that have been told that they have to go in and be induced either because their baby’s at risk and then get told, oh, yes. We can’t do it today. We don’t have enough beds. Is my baby at risk or not? And why is it unacceptable for me to want to wait but acceptable for you to wait until you’re ready to induce me? Nuance.

Alexia [00:38:01]:

Yeah. And I’m just wondering why. I mean, you know, I don’t wanna go into the whole, you know, what’s wrong with the whole system because we could be here all day, but I’m just wondering this desire that they have of wanting to induce just just willy nilly. You know, what does it really achieve? because it does create. It’s not the best thing for birth. Birth doesn’t go as smoothly when there’s an induction at the beginning. It just creates more problems than it solves. So why are they even doing that? It’s not even cost-effective, which is the thing I think that they all want to know the most. It’s about wanting to control. It is control, isn’t it? And, you know, and we see it across the globe. This need to control and micromanage women’s bodies. But then that comes from fear. That need to control is fear-based because and so therefore what they fear for love, is the ultimate fear that if it all goes wrong, they’re gonna get sued. I mean, is that essentially what they’re trying to protect themselves from, you think?

Mars [00:39:08]:

Seems to be. It genuinely seems to be. Everyone’s afraid to say anything in case they get sued, which is why if you get them to note things in your notes, So I say to black-bodied people particularly, if they say they’re not going to treat you for something, so I had a woman that went to see her GP because she was fitting post-birth. And the GP said, oh, we’re not gonna do anything about that. That’s just stress. And then we hear the lived experiences of people whose daughters whose children have died because the doctors and the midwives didn’t believe them when they said something feels wrong, or I have got this pain. Or something’s not right inside. And when they’re open, they go, oh my goodness. You, oh, you were lucky because you were about to die. Because no one is listening to them and taking them seriously. A young woman went into the hospital, 8 months pregnant with her son, complaining of breathlessness and saying she felt like the baby was trying to kill her from the inside out. She was told, Oh, breathlessness is normal in pregnancy. Go home. And yet a few months before, because of the disparities gap, the hospitals were told different black-bodied women present with breathlessness. treat it seriously, just investigate and make sure there’s nothing wrong. That young woman went home, had a heart attack, cardiac arrest, — both her and her 8-month child died.

Alexia: It’s shocking.

Mars [00:40:56]:

Yeah. And it was as simple as listening to her, and let’s just check. But it’s okay because we’ll just induce people on our time when we decide to, even if there is no evidence for it. And that’s why these extra ethnicity scans are scary because we don’t know the why. and we don’t know what is happening with that information. But what we do know is that black and brown bodies are continually experimented on. to find out how to make it better for predominantly and particularly white-bodied people.

Alexia [00:41:36]:

So as this is a fear-free childbirth show. Rather than ending on a scary note. Yeah. what I’d like, you know, it’s the listening things seem to really key here. and how to get people to listen to you. I mean, have you got any wisdom to share or advice so that when they’re sharing how they’re feeling, what’s going on, that they are able to get people to actually listen to them and take them seriously and not be dismissed. So repeat back the thing that they’ve said to you.

Mars [00:42:07]:

So are you telling me that if I don’t get induced If I don’t do this thing you’ve told me to do, that my baby will die? Because people use shorthand in their language. And sometimes that’s all a doctor and midwife need to hear to make them say, oh, no. What I’m saying is Here are the actual risks. Here are the actual statistics. So feedback to them, say mirror back exactly what they say to you and say, so I’ve heard you tell me that this will happen, which allows them to stop and say, oh, no. That’s not what I was trying to communicate. Now you get a better conversation. When you advocate for yourself, say, okay. I’m asking these questions so that I have complete clarity as to what it is that’s going on here because I obviously want to do the best for me and my baby. So I hear what you’re saying. I understand it. But this is my decision on what I want to do, but I am happy to come back to the table to talk about it again. And I’m so appreciative for the time that you give me.

Alexia [00:43:29]:

And what about for those that are sharing something that’s going on for them, like the breathless situation, where they’re being dismissed, where, you know, so to get to be heard, in and not ignored in those kinds of situations.

Mars [00:43:43]:

What would you want? It always seems to work and say, I would like you to note in my notes. that you are refusing to investigate this and you are refusing to see if I need treatment.

Alexia [00:43:56]:

Brilliant. Thought that’ll work.

Mars [00:43:58]:

Every single time I use it. All of my friends that had any medical issues going anywhere into and out of hospital, whether they’re black or brown-bodied, I always tell them that. And they say it’s amazing because suddenly the script was switched. Brilliant. And I was being seen. And for the vast majority of them, there’s nothing going on. Right. But it catches the one where something is. It’s very low. The thing to understand is maternal mortality is incredibly low. And the things that I’m talking about are where within that small number of people, black and brown bodies are overrepresented. So it’s still a small number. So don’t imagine that everything is getting ready to lead you into a place of fear, but do ask those questions. and do state that you hear what you’re being told, but you just want to clarify it and that you will come back and talk about it some more. But could they just document in your notes what you’ve asked them, what their response is, and why you refuse, or why you have decided that you will not be investigating further.

Alexia [00:45:18]:

Do you have a little cheat sheet with all these razors on that you supply? I’m gonna make a little cheat sheet. phrases on, and I’m going to make sure to send it to you by the time this podcast comes out so that it’s there with my information and people can download the cheat sheet. Yeah. No. That would be great because that just a thing that they can print off and have so they can take with them and add it there, all their pile of stuff they’re gathering during their pregnancy would be great. so thank you Mars. Now for those that want to pursue you and join you in your relentlessness and make some noise with you. Where can they track you down?

Mars [00:46:00]:

So they, I mean, Google my name and you’ll find me everywhere. If you want to work with me, I am a life coach, particularly for pregnant women, especially pregnant Black women. So on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, you can find me — @_marslord. But if you just put in Mars lord, because I can then remember what the individual handles are. If you want to know more about becoming a doula or my birth activism, then you’ll find me at @abueladoulas. Abuela is a Spanish word for grandmother, a-b-u-e-l-a, doula, d o u l a, and you can find me there are two spaces you can find me to work with me. and I’ll make sure that you have all of that information.

Alexia [00:46:57]:

I will have all the links and everything that you need to know to track down Mars will be available on the Fear free childbirth at the website, she did dig in. And, hopefully, also, we’ll all have a great cheat sheet to share as well with everything you need to say so you can be heard and listened to. So it’s everything. You’re basically stacking the cards in your favor so that you can come out with an incredible worth experience. So thank you once again, Mars, for joining me today on the Fear Free Childbirth shows. Brilliant.

Mars [00:47:20]:

Oh, love it. My pleasure.

Alexia [00:47:26]:

Well, I hope you enjoyed listening to Mars telling us all about ethnicity scans and how to manage them if that is something that you’re experiencing. Now as we discussed during the podcast, Mars has provided me with a mini cheat sheet of things that you can say to help you to handle any situations that may come up for you that are around the theme of having procedures that you don’t really want, or whether not listening to your needs and the things that are going on for you. So that download is available for you inside the Mama Ship, which I mentioned to you at the beginning of this episode, And also inside the Mama Ship is a video interview of the podcast. So if you wanna see me and Mars talking this one through, then the full unedited video is also waiting for you inside the Mama Ship, where you can find out more about that, fearfreechildbirth/mamaship Now until next time, bye for now.

Alexia [00:48:21]:

You’ve been listening to the Fear Free Childbirth podcast with me, Alexis Leachman. Fear Free childbirth is the online destination for women seeking to take the fear out of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, with fear clearance meditations, self-healing products, and courses, professional training, and specialist programs for overcoming tokophobia. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, then check out the Fear Free Childbirth Mama Ship. It’s a bit like Netflix where you can binge on a boatload more fear-free childbirth content to inspire you on the journey to motherhood and beyond, more interviews, more bird stories, more expert whistling. Visit to find out more.

Alexia Leachman
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