I enjoyed reading Sarah Johnson’s recent blog post on call the midwife. I LOVE call the midwife and read the books when I was student; how I dreamed of working in that way – a local midwife, on her local patch, working with the local women, caring for them in their own homes.
For most midwives, this way of working is a million miles away from the reality of midwifery care within the NHS; birth at home is no longer the ‘norm’, midwives work in large centralised units, women are very unlikely to be cared for by a midwife they have ever met, normal birth rates are incredibly low and the use of analgesia and the associated risks and side effects high. Sarah suggests that birth stools are ‘standardised equipment’ in units, and women birth in up-right positions: statistics suggest otherwise, with the NCT citing in their research that less than 40% of women are encouraged to be mobile, upright and off the bed and their backs. I myself have visited units where birth stools may be quietly gathering dust in the corner, where huge, shiney new units are built with just one ‘token gesture’ birth pool (despite NICE guidance stating that birth pools should be available to all women as an effective form of pain relief) and where one-to-one care is not always achieved for women in labour. The NHS offers the best it can on a shrinking budget, with a hard working yet disillusioned work force, with a growing population, and with women presenting with more and more complicated pregnancies.
My dream of practising as a 1950’s midwife might not quite have come to fruition, but I am honoured to have carved a way of working which comes as close as possible: I care for the same woman throughout her pregnancy, birth and postnatal period; I care for women and families in their own home; I attend home births (and follow the woman into hospital if plans change). I may not have a bike (and am about to invest in a 4x4 to make work life easier), but I do carry my own equipment and have a big ‘Midwife on Call’ sign to hang on my dashboard when I am with a woman in labour!
When a woman in my care goes into labour, they can call a midwife – they can call a midwife they know and they trust, who will be by their side until their baby is tucked up safely in their arms, who knows all about them and what is important to them. That is Independent Midwifery – the recognised gold standard of care, a choice for women outside of the NHS. And it is under threat. Just as that 1950’s midwife is no longer recognisable, so too, might be Independent Midwives; EU directives, insurance issues, and a government failing to deliver on its promise to really offer choice are seeing to that.
So, women, mothers, midwives, fathers, grandparents – if you LOVE Call the Midwife like me, if you LOVE the idea of calling a midwife you know, if you LOVE the idea of care in the home being the norm, then make sure you make a call to your local MP and tell them that!
You can find out more about this issue by visiting www.northsurreymidwives.co.uk