Friday, 1 February 2013

Birth Works

There have been some awesome blogs this week from Midwives and from Women, as well as some interesting news headlines; I love reading blogs that inspire me, challenge me, and get more women and midwives thinking about birth and midwifery skills.

Last week I facilitated an 'Inspirational Birth' Study day, covering physiological birth: I have wanted to run this study day for a while, but when it came to planning the actual content for the day, I found myself procrastinating.  Fear in part; worry that I didn't know enough to fill a 6 hour day; concern that I wouldn't convey the message I was hoping it turned out it was a great day: I had forgotten actually just how much I have learnt in my journey as an Independent Midwife, and watching the 'light bulb' moments was very rewarding for me as a facilitator.  

In the current midwifery climate, there is little scope for physiological birth - and I don't state that lightly, as I know that is a direct criticism of maternity services.  How do I justify that statement?  Women are designed to give birth; sometimes, in some circumstances, some women may need some help (thank you Mary Cronk for that beautiful phrase), BUT we know that the vast majority of women are NOThaving normal, straightforward births - and even fewer are experiencing physiological birth  (there is a difference).  Birth Works, but it needs certain conditions, support and understanding for that to happen.  Maternity services in the UK are at breaking point: a rising birth rate and too few midwives (or cuts in services) means that women are not guaranteed one-to-one care in labour; women do not have time to build a relationship with a midwife that facilitates trust; hospitals have policies that are not conducive to physiological birth - but are conducive to intervention and time management; and midwives are not challenged on practise that is outdated and not evidence based (valsalva for one).

In my mind, there are a few issues that continue to confound and prevent change;

1. The demise of midwifery care outside of the NHS institution
2. The continued attack on women and midwives who choose to work with physiological birth
3. That we are no longer teaching our daughters to be feminists (a dirty word in modern society)

Take for example the Daily Mail article this week on women's experience of traumatic birth; then read the comments.  Women attacking women, men attacking women, women sharing very distressing experiences - and many comments indicating 'doctor knows best and women should be grateful' .

Birth is hard work; it is not perfect, sometimes it is not 'beautiful', sometimes it is down right mean; that is birth.  This is NOT however the 'care' that may be inflicted, the unkindness of medical staff or the paternalistic attitude of doctors.  What women want is a positive experience of birth - however that birth may unfold, and having a midwife by your side who understands, supports and believes in birth and whom the woman knows and trusts can make a huge difference to that experience.  That is not too much to ask.

Birth Works - but we have forgotten this.  Instead, we focus on the 'what if's', how to 'manage' birth, how to 'save' women from pain; we have lost trust in birth and have made hospitals and the NHS the saving grace of birth - as opposed to utilising it as and when is necessary - ensuring resources and first rate care are available for women who need it (I for one have been grateful for their expertise when women in my care have needed it).  We have also de-skilled midwives and on a global level we continue to allow midwifery to be quashed, undermined, de-valued and not recognised for the amazing profession it is.  Midwifery and women are controlled -  Freedom for Birth highlighted some of these issues.

Independent Midwifery has enabled me to hone and develop my skills in physiological birth; I already had the belief and passion for normal birth, but had to work very hard in my NHS training to fully experience it.  As an IM, I want to share my passion, my knowledge, my skills (and I still have much to learn and hopefully will never stop learning) - but come October my right to work as an IM will be outlawed - another blog to follow on that.  For now, I shall continue to work outside of the NHS, I shall continue to support physiological birth at every opportunity, and I will aim to inspire my own daughters to be proud to be a feminist.

Birth Works; Women Work; Midwifery Works.

angela xx

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