England needs more midwives: but legal services are fine

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I was interviewed on Radio 5 Live yesterday, in relation to the news coverage of the National Audit Office revelations of maternity care.  The report confirmed the fact that England IS short of midwives, and revealed that the NHS spends nearly £700 on clinical negligence cover for each live birth in England. I wonder how many times audits and reports will confirm what we midwives have known and shouted about for years, and how long the message will continue to fall on deaf ears.

The Royal College of Midwives,  National Childbirth Trust, AIMS,  Women’s Institute and other organisations have campaigned long and hard for more midwives, needed urgently for the rising birth rate and increasing complexity in caring for mothers and babies. But there is something else going on here. The financial implications of England’s current negligence insurance scheme (Clinical Negligence Schemes for Trusts) mentioned above are bad enough, but associated processes also significantly increases the workload of maternity care staff, and adds to the growing culture of fear in maternity services.

In an attempt to increase safety through implementing standards of compliance, activity related to the scheme potentially increases risk by putting extra pressure of individual members of staff. ‘Tick box’ activity, extra form filling, and duplication of records add to the human cost and potential for mistakes. In many organisations midwives are taken out of generic posts to work as ‘risk midwives’ or governance leads. Usually these midwives are highly competent clinically, and their absence in the clinical area is missed-adding to the risk.

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However, an important impact of our legal system is related to practitioner’s fear of recrimination, and fear of litigation. Defensive practice or ‘covering your back’ ‘just in case’ is a recognised symptom of fear of litigation-and subsequent over treatment increases the risk of iatrogenic harm.  The increased and often duplicated recording of information becomes the focus of ‘care’, as practitioners complete patient records which are audited for insurance purposes. What the carer writes becomes more important than what she/he does, and women and families increasingly experience this distraction negatively.

The medical negligence solicitor who took part in the radio programme with me yesterday, said midwives and doctors need to increase their skills, and he suggested that England’s medical negligence processes were the envy of the world. I have a different opinion. Ensuring safety through appropriate skills is crucial, and whilst mistakes will happen, there is no excuse and we should continually work on improving services. Along with others, I believe improvements will only come if NHS workers are sufficient in number to have time to care, and that they are supported and nurtured enough to feel safe themselves. Where fear prevails and defensive practice in normal, women and families will continue to suffer. Radical but carefully planned changes are needed. Malpractice claims are rising, and there is little evidence that safety is improving, despite the laborious and bureaucratic systems and process imposed in the name of such. Our negligence claims insurance schemes aren’t working, and midwives are on their knees. Even though politician Dan Poulter is an obstetrician by profession, his responses to the NAO report reveal limited insight into the detail underpinning the facts that matter. We’ve said it before many times. If we don’t get it right for mothers and babies at the beginning of life, the impact can last a lifetime.

Childbirth has far reaching public health implications. This specilist medical negligence solicitor reveals the fact that many of the claims she sees are the result of pressures within the maternity systems, and calls for more resources to be invested.  Maybe it’s time to revisit a no-fault compensation scheme, the attempt in 2003 was never taken forward. Scotland has pursued this in light of the success in other countries.

Whatever we do, we can’t continue in the same vein. I would love to know your thoughts.

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What Twitter did, and what student midwives say!

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It’s been a while since I started using Twitter. It was my daughter, @abglyph and her lovely chappy @gazcook who stirred my interest. I don’t know how it all happened, but now most of my days involve ‘tweeting’ or ‘chirping’, and the result is I am increasingly connected with like minded folks across the globe.  Not only am I in touch with inspirational leaders from nursing and midwifery,  but NHS CEO’s such as Lisa Rodrigues @LisaSaysThis  and Mark Newbold @drmarknewbold always have great information to share. I communicate with local GPs, and Stuart Berry @StuartBerry1 is one of them. Stuart and I have never met, but we have some similar interest and can promote each others’ work through Twitter channels. Amazing. Interestingly, Stuart posted this  about the use of Twitter this morning. Great stuff!

There isn’t a week goes by when I’m not contacted by individuals asking me for help and support, or inviting me to speak at study days an other events. I am particularly happy with this, as it helps me to share expertise gained by working in the NHS for 35 years.

Last week was a particularly busy week, and almost everything that I did was either initiated or organised via Twitter! I happened to be in London, for some ‘away time’ with the Trustees of the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust on Saturday…and then the fun started.

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Posing with Alison Baum, outside Best Beginnings office!

On Monday  morning I met with the wonderful Alison Baum from Best Beginnings, to see how I could help her with the amazing new smartphone app for new parents. This all came about when I retweeted a short film about the app, and Alison asked to see me. I visited Alison’s office and we didn’t pause for breath for two hours. Lots of ideas and plans…including a small package to be sent to the Duchess of Cambridge! Take a look at this film to learn more about the Bump Buddy app….

I then scurried to St Pancras to meet Murray Chick (yes that’s his real name). Murray is the owner and brainchild of Britain’s Nurses, and I LOVE the site. Again, this opportunity was made via Twitter, I found the site there, and made some enquiries. Incredibly easy, and so effective! Previous to this meeting, and through Twitter, @Britainsnurses picked up two of my blogs to share with nurses for International Nurses Day! Sorry about that @gbutcher17!

The day after I went to Kings College London again to meet a group of wonderfully enthusiastic and very smily  positive student midwives, organised via Twitter following a lovely invite by student midwife Natalie Buschman @Birthsandmore. It wasn’t the first time Natalie and I connected and made a plan via Twitter; she also took up the challenge to do the Prudential Ride London, in aid of the  Iolanthe Midwifery Trust, after seeing me advertise the opportunity on Twitter! Great work Natalie! If you want to sponsor Natalie, and thereby support the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust, you can do so here!

After being with the students I ran round the corner to enjoy lunch with three formidably inspirational women: Maggie Howell @MaggieHowell from Natal Hypnotherapy , Independent Midwife extraordinaire Pam Wild @Pamoneuk  and journalist Beverley Turner @BeverleyTurner . What a treat. Again…lot’s to chat about and plan in limited time…and it all started with Twitter!

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L-R Maggie, Me, Beverley and Pam

And then a couple of weeks ago Dean Beaumont @DaddyNatal from Daddy Natal, invited me to review his book…’The Expectant Dad’s Handbook’  on Twitter. We exchanged contact details through the direct message function, and voila! The book plopped through my letterbox and was avidly devoured within a few days. The book, by the way, is spot on. Sensible and sensitive…with great advice for all Dads-to be. I will be writing a review Dean!

I have the feeling that my Twitter support of StudentMidwife.Net went some way to their decision to invite me to be their Patron. Whoop! What a privilege and an opportunity. Also, through Twitter I saw an chance to be involved with @WeNurses, by running regular @WeMidwives chats…which has been a steep learning curve! This has really given a new voice to Midwifery.

And then there’s the fabulous Doulas. I ‘met’ many of them through Twitter, and we connect so regularly I feel like I know some of them well, even though I have never seen them in person.  There are too many Doula friends to mention here, but you know who you are! (I’ll probably cause offence if I miss anyone out!). Through Twitter, I have come to know and appreciate your valuable contribution to childbirth.

And of course this isn’t just all about me. I couldn’t ask many, but these two student midwives have had opportunities too, through using Twitter:

Student Midwife @Li33ieBee said -‘Via Twitter I have had articles proofread by experts and been sent hard to find research papers’.

Sarah Tuke @sazzletastic told me- I have become a more compassionate ‘put hands on’ midwife after reading quotes from Sheila Kitzinger at a conference to put hands on to reassure to increase oxytocin. It works! Wouldn’t have known about what she said without tweeting from that conference as I couldn’t make it 🙂

HOW GOOD IS THAT?

But there aren’t many midwives using Twitter, and there are still a considerable number of individuals and organisations that are fearful of using social media.  I know that several health professionals have lost their jobs or places at University, due to inappropriate postings. But this is a pity. There’s lots of guidance out there, and with common sense you really can avoid the pitfalls.

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Tips for Social Media found at http://topnonprofits.com/posting-guide/

Need help?

Check out the Nursing and Midwifery Council guidance on the use of social media 

The NHS Social Media site has lots of useful tips

Guidance for NHS Caremakers is useful for all health care professionals

Here are some great folks to follow or connect with:

Sarah Stewart- Midwife Educator and Professional Development Officer with Australian College of Midwives @SarahStewart (and quite a whizz with social media matters)

Jacque Gerrard -Director for England Royal College of Midwives @jacquegerrard

Mark Newbold -Chief Executive of Heart of Birmingham FT @drmarknewbold

Anne Cooper -Nurse working in informatics interested in leadership @anniecoops

Teresa Chinn-Nurse and social media specialist @AgencyNurse

And if you are unsure about what Twitter is, and why or how it would be useful to you, @pam007nelmes is a social media expert, AND she believes kindness is magic which for me, is the best. Pam is worth following as she has lots of tips! Here is one of Pam’s presentations-Social Media for Nurses Oct 2012

For me, Twitter brings fabulous worthwhile interactions with others, the sharing of current and interesting news or information, and unique and exciting opportunities. And every now and then, there’ll be a gem that pops up, such as Molly Case’s inspirational poem, read by her at the RCN Congress 2013.

So, last night I asked several student midwives who are already engaged with Twitter, what benefits they felt it brought them…and here are a few of their ‘tweet responses’ back to me!

@dawn_t12‘Twitter for me is invaluable as a student. It keeps me updated on news/new research/study days, but more than that it’s another form of support. I love that through twitter I’ve made friends with people at different unis in different towns and we help each other through the bad days and celebrate the good. It’s just sad some students & midwives are missing out on this world!’

@Beetrooter‘Twitter brings fellowship with ppl passionate about midwifery from across the world & across spectrum of professional roles. Its my inspiration for learning, gives evidence to inform my practice, rolemodels for me to aspire. Instant access to womens’ experience jubilant/ anguish. Twitter is conversations. It’s life squished beautifully into 140 characters’.

@Birthsandmore -‘great way to broaden mind, horizon and tweet with like minded people you otherwise would not have met. t lifts my spirit to read and hear from so many passionate people, especially after a tough day ‘at the office’!

@Josie_jo_F-‘from a v.small Uni, twitter gives me a chance to find out what happens in other trusts, have contact with other SMs, learn from MWs, lecturers&other inspirational ppl I’d never meet in my isolated neck o’the woods.glad to have found this community’

@sazzletastic-People on twitter have been an amazing support to me throughout my 3rd yr studying giving me encouragement and reassurance to keep going and have confidence in my knowledge and abilities. Having access to organisations and big names in the field that actually reply to you is brilliant! I’ve learnt so much via twitter, I only wish I’d had it for the first 2yrs of study too!

So, come on midwives and student midwives….Twitter has so much to offer. Facebook keeps you in touch with friends, but Twitter helps you find those you would never have met, who hold the potential to open up a new world for you! As student midwife Hana Ruth Abel  @Hana_Studentmid so eloquently puts it:
Twitter is the thread that binds me across the globe, weaving me into the fabric of international midwifery & making me a piece of the puzzle that builds up a global voice, I am an equal part of that voice. Ever changing and pushing myself to grow with a community of individuals who share my philosophy and question practice. Twitter shines a light on every end of the spectrum. United we stand on our virtual platform- Speaking up and stepping forward, one tweet at a time’. 
Wow Hana!

Social Media Posting Guide

Inspirational students and the need for more midwives

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Midwife shortage chat word cloud

I have just finished facilitating the @WeMidwives twitter chat, which runs every two weeks, under the domain of @WeNurses.

Tonight the debate centred around the shortage of midwives in the UK, and the impact this has on mothers and babies. The participants in the chat were raring to go. Interestingly but not surprising the majority of tweeters were student midwives, and they carefully and articulately described the situation in today’s NHS maternity services. I believe that the content of the chat found here is a true reflection of things, as I hear from my colleagues around the country on a daily basis.

It is desperately sad. The resources are limited and constrained. It seems ludicrous that the NHS has a financial plan that enforces savings on services that potentially cost the NHS more in the long term.

We must keep raising the issue that radical change is needed to ensure care at the very beginning of life is the best it can be.   Midwifery staffing levels are inadequate, and the workload is increasing for many reasons. I recently wrote a post for the  NHS Confederation’s blog for NHS Leaders highlighting the need to take stock of the Francis Report‘s recommendations and to listen to what service users are telling us, before it’s too late.  

The students involved in the chat tonight were insightful, sensible and sensitive. They see and feel the pressure, the tension, the joy and the tiredness. They want to change things, and why shouldn’t they get the opportunity? They are the future.

And I think we owe it to them to keep pushing for change. I will try, will you?

Childbirth and infant feeding: why the war?

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The polarisation of opinion with regard to these topics is growing by the minute…and there is much to debate. For this post my thoughts are focused on childbirth, although both subjects are absolutely interlinked.

My initial response when I read condemnations for those who promote and support normal physiological childbirth or breastfeeding is of sadness and shame. Sadness that there has potentially been some degree of personal distress for the one proclaiming their opinion. Shame that my profession is often part of the ‘problem.’

I see and hear opposing yet valid viewpoints about childbirth on almost a daily basis, mainly via blogs, Facebook and Twitter. We are all entitled to our opinion, and it’s good that there can now be a degree of open debate via social media channels. The problem arises when journalists and high profile individuals sensationalise a particular topic through mass media, basing their opinion on their personal experience. This can be inadvertently damaging, especially when related to childbirth.

Kirstie Allsopp’s response to the recent ‘too posh to push’ coverage in the Telegraph is an example of this. I can fully understand Kirstie’s retaliation to the implications that the Caesarean Section (CS) rate is higher in middle class areas, there may be something personal in that. The fact may have an element of truth, but the reasons for the increasing unnecessary intervention and related CS rates aren’t as simple as this. There are other suggestions for the relentless shift.

As stated in the Telegraph article, and in opposition to what the article headline actually suggests, women choosing to have major surgery instead of giving birth naturally are in the minority, and if there is a request is it usually for a very valid reason, usually associated with unprecedented fear.

Instead, the evidence and debate on the declining normal birth rate points to factors such as increasing maternal age, complexities of pregnancy, increased numbers of multiple pregnancies due to assisted conception, lack of senior doctors to make decisions on birth suite, low midwifery numbers, midwifery skill mix, focus on risk factors, women’s uninformed choices, inappropriate use of clinical ‘guidelines’….the list goes on.

For decades, childbearing women have been marginalised. I witnessed this during the thirty plus years I worked as a midwife, as did (and still do) my midwifery colleagues throughout the UK and beyond. Women’s belief in their ability to birth their babies is declining rapidly as a result of unnecessary medicalisation in maternity care. This was recognised as a growing problem more than thirty years ago, and midwifery organisations such as the Association of Radical Midwives and service user organisations such as the National Childbirth Trust thankfully and successfully campaigned for change.

Whilst practices of unnecessary medical intervention in the childbirth process continues globally, there is a continued and renewed uprising; women, midwives and obstetricians are recognising the potential consequential harm to mother and baby. Childbearing women in particular are the catalyst for change. Instead of remaining afraid, women are forming organisations to support parents to be, such as The Birth I Want, The Positive Birth Movement, One World Birth and Birthrights. Doctors and Midwives are active too. I imagine if Kirstie was having her babies twenty years ago she would been amongst those initial radicals campaigning for change. But with the drive and energy for change comes expectations of parents, and when those expectations aren’t reached for whatever reason, disappointment seems to initiate the need to blame instead of pursuing further change.

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The topic is a complex one. But take a look at the chart here. The Caesarean section rate is increasing, and the normal birth rate decreasing. This alarming fact isn’t matched with improved health for mother and baby, in fact I would suggest it has had the opposite effect.

So, are we wrong to try to influence the way babies are born? I think not. But instead of arguing and blaming others, women, men and families must try to move together. The evidence is stacked high that where birth is as close to nature as possible, where women are cared for respectfully and her caregivers are respected then maternal and child health is at it’s best. Some women need intervention. Both my daughters did, and it was life saving. But we are now in a danger zone where medical advances are replacing nature, and that causes harm and was never meant to be.

So come on. Women are not ‘too posh to push’. They are strong and powerful, and if they are given respectful and supportive maternity care they will flourish as women and as mothers. But they need to know and understand the evidence behind the implications of some of the choices they make, and that others try to make for them. Those providing that information and encouraging them to achieve their goal does not mean they have a ‘luddite obsession’ and they are not the purporters of guilt. Midwives are feeling more desperate for change by the day, and they need women (and their partners) to help them to reverse the trend.

Let’s get together Kirstie, and see what we can do.

Childbirth chart BirthChoiceUK

Photograph copyrighted to SevernJonesPhotography

UK Student Midwives-something to be proud of

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It’s a long time ago since I was a student midwife (1970’s), we were then known as a pupil midwives. It’s even a long time since my daughter was a student midwife…and that does make me feel old! I have worked very closely with so many incredible students throughout my career, and I have instantly recognised the ones who I felt ‘had it’- that is, the sensitivity and kindness that makes a difference to childbearing women in their most vulnerable yet special moments of their life.

But during the past year I have been incredibly fortunate to have ‘met’ hundreds of students from throughout the UK and beyond, in the virtual world. This has been made possible because of two things: writing my midwifery memoir Catching Babies, and using Twitter.

So many student midwives have contacted me and given feedback about my book, and I am touch with dozens on Twitter. I have also been approached by several individual students with requests to talk at their University conferences, and have been humbled and honoured to attend and support them.

So what is it that makes me feel proud? From my experience I feel this new generation of student midwives have not only ‘got it’, but they have other attributes that really impress me. I have seen a confidence and maturity that enables them to express themselves respectfully, with humility and graciousness. But this assertiveness is not at the cost of kindness and compassion; this is in abundance, along with an enormous passion to make a difference to women and families during the childbirth period.

My belief was further consolidated on the 16th July when several student midwives dressed in 1950’s Call the Midwife style uniforms cycled 6 miles through London raising awareness of the desperate need for 5000 more midwives and the petition that the Royal College of Midwives have organised. The event was organised by Rebecca Ashley, and she and her colleagues have demonstrated courage and determination, innovation and leadership and they are still in their first year. We (midwives) are eternally grateful to them.

The more I communicate with, see, hear and chat to our country’s student midwives, the more my heart sings. We are incredibly fortunate, and the future health of our nation depends on their ability to say strong, positive and focused.

And these student midwives need midwifery posts when they qualify. HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION? 

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Home Birth in the Netherlands……back to the future?

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Human Rights in Childbirth Conference
The Hague

Attending the second day of the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference  in the Hague on the 2nd June was a revelation, and a remarkable opportunity. I was unable to be part of the first day, as I was travelling by car to the Netherlands for a two week stay to see our brilliant Dutch grandchildren. When I wrote about the conference previously, I didn’t think I would be able to attend at all.

It was Hermine Hayes-Klein, an American Lawyer, who developed the idea for a conference with others after researching the politics of birth in the Netherlands and USA following the birth of her two children. Women’s right and authority to choose the place of birth for their baby, and to be supported in her choice was the key driver for Hermine.

The first day of the event aimed to bring attention to and focus on the issues surrounding the Ternovszky v. Hungary case. Although I thought I knew a fair deal about the horrific plight of Agnes Gereb, I learnt so much more as I absorbed the text within the conference’s detailed publication.

The implications of the Ternovsky case are apparent in other countries other than Hungary, and the holding of the case offers a potential solution globally. Experts from around the world were carefully chosen and they gathered willingly to debate human rights and childbirth and explore a way forward.

Day two was of particular interest to me because of my family link with Holland, and as an advocate of home birth, midwifery and maternity care in the Netherlands has always caught my attention.

It was utterly incredible to be in Den Haag and to listen to the debate surrounding birth in this small country. I found Dr Raymond De Vries‘s keynote address inspirational, and I couldn’t get enough of it. From Dr De Vries and then the panel of experts I heard an array of perspectives about the controversy surrounding the perinatal mortality rate in Holland, how it is higher than other European countries and proposed as one of the factors that is influencing women’s decisions on where to give birth. I heard how these statistics are being challenged, and how health professionals are exploring every opportunity to understand the situation.

Another issue raised was the Dutch maternity guideline, Verloskundige IndicatieLijst (VIL) and the restrictions it increasingly imposes on women’s choice to birth their baby at home. The introduction of market forces within Dutch health services and changes to how maternity services are funded is also believed to be a factor in the decline in home birth. And some suggest that some women in Holland have different priorities and are preferring to give birth in hospital…although others contest this claim.

I was particularly moved by Rebekka Visser  and  Marjolein Faber‘s address to the conference, they received standing ovations from the delegates and they gave the impression that they are forces to be reckoned with.

So what did I learn?

1. A country that has been the shining light for birth practice globally for decades is potentially under threat, and that is a travesty. I desperately hope the Netherlands doesn’t follow other countries in their quest to improve.

2. I realised that during my career as a midwife in East Lancashire in the UK I experienced something special. Because…

During her address Rebekka Visser said:

To me it’s of great importance to really listen to the woman –
and to the way she assesses risk for herself.
To guarantee absolute trust that she is the one in charge.
To provide her with all the information she asks for.
To be open about this towards other people.. My dream is to be able to do my work as a midwife in close cooperation with gynecologist and hospital, thus creating a network where women can be respected and supported in their choices.

I was able to provide such care. Obstetricians working closely with midwives to facilitate woman centred care collaboratively meant (and still means) that women do have a choice in home birth, birth centre birth and hospital birth…and their choice is respected and supported even if their individual needs and requests do not ‘fit’ a guideline.

3. That women in Holland using maternity services now and in the future need to ensure their voice is heard and maintain momentum from the conference. It is crucial.

I feel privileged to have been part of what I consider to be the cusp of a birth revolution. If you would like to learn more  you can visit the conference website and consider subscribing to the webinar.

You may also wish to read comments on Twitter from the two days, and pursue the various links from the posts.

Many thanks to Simone Valk and all the conference organisers for welcoming me on the 2nd.

Other blogs about the Conference:

Rebecca Schiller-The Hackney Doula

Dr Amali Lokugamage 

An identity crisis and nurses uniforms

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Some of my NHS ID badges!

There are obviously some of my ID badges missing from here…I had a student nurse, staff nurse, pupil midwife and staff midwife badge in addition to the ones above. And so many tales to tell whilst wearing each one. I didn’t know I had kept them all, but as I make my way through cluttered cupboards as I no longer have to work full time, I am finding lots of gems from the past, such as these. If you want to know more about the stories behind the badges, read my book Catching Babies.

It was only when I pondered on all the ‘midwife’ titles did I consider how confused the public must be with the variation in names of staff working in the NHS. And yet I was proud to wear each ID badge, and never gave a thought to the understanding behind the name for those who read it. And then there’s all those uniforms! Oh my, it used to be that a nurse’s uniform was only worn by nurses, but now the snack machine filler looks like a ward sister….

That aside, I really have mixed views about midwives wearing nurses uniforms. Not averse to having a corporate image (so at least the public can distinguish who is the carer in a hospital situation) I once initiated and managed the move to midwives wearing polo shirts and trousers or skirts, instead of a nurse’s attire. The reason being I believe maternity care should be based on a partnership model, with no hierarchies. Once a midwife dons nurse’s outfit there is a division, an unspoken ‘I am the expert’ from the midwife. Now this might not be apparent; the midwife could very well be the most caring and facilitative of woman centred-ness, but the symbol is there. So we wore our navy or green polo shirts with the word ‘midwife’ blazened above the left breast, and all was well. We had a uniform, but it was less imposing, slightly more informal. There was some rebellion, but eventually it was widely accepted. Until, that is, the porters within the hospital (or was it the maintenance men?) started wearing the same regalia! Well let me tell you that caused a stir. There was anarchy.

Two lovely midwives at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust

Nowadays the midwives are back in nurses uniform. What do you think?

Human Rights and Childbirth: the mother, the baby and the carer

Human right to birth; human right to love

So much attention has been given to this topic in the midwifery world recently, due to the dreadful situation in Hungary with Agnes Gereb. And of course there is much concern about the future of Independent Midwifery in the UK.

Across the water in the Netherlands where my son and grandchildren live, a group of activist are rallying experts to debate the issue of women’s choice in place of birth.  The group have organised a unique  conference at the end of the month in the Hague, and a webinar that will be LIVE streamed and available for 30 days following the conference.  This webinar is being offered at a discounted rate if you book via the discount code detailed below. 

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The organisers are a small group of dedicated volunteers and have been working hard to get the conference funded and ready in time.  They are happy to report that the conference is going ahead, although it has been on a shoestring budget.  The line up of panelist is impressive; a team of international voices to help move the subject of human rights in childbirth from theory to reality.   The conference will be a platform to explore the practical aspects of human rights in 21st century healthcare systems, and how those systems can both maximize safety and respect the dignity of the women they support.

For details please visit the website: www.humanrightsinchildbirth.com.

About the Human Rights in Childbirth Webinar: 
This webinar provides a unique opportunity for professionals and parents around the world to be a part of the global discussion on human rights in childbirth.   The Human Rights in Childbirth Conference will be LIVE streamed by a professional team, so you can watch live and join the discussion via twitter.  If you are unable to join live, you will be able to watch the conference panels at your leisure VIA THE WEBINAR for 30 days following the conference, join the ongoing discussion via the Facebook page, and connect with the regional and international networks of professionals capable of protecting women’s fundamental right to authority and support in childbirth.

The organisers want the conference to be accessible for my contacts, and they have negotiated a special price for you to join this important event!

Regular Price: €175 inclusive the pre-conference publication.

Special Price for Sheena Byrom’s community:  €75 pre-conference publication not included.

How to get this special price:

1.    Go to the Registration Form: Registration Page

2.    Fill in the registration form and select the webinar (you will see the regular prices but don’t worry you will get your discount!), in the field “How did you learn about the conference? *” fill in “Catching Babies Discount”

3.    Do not pay by clicking on the PAY PAL directly (then you will pay the regular price). You will receive a confirmation email from our office with the discounted price and you can pay either via PAY PAL or via a bank transfer.  The details for this will be provided in the email confirmation (this is created by a human, it is not an automatic mail, so won’t be sent directly).

I think this is an amazing offer; by engaging with this event you will have the potential to influence global change in maternity care, through increased knowledge.

Congratulation to my colleagues in the Netherlands for their hard work and dedication in making this possible.

International Day of the Midwife: University of Central Lancashire!

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Call the Midwife Preston style! Mercedes looks good!

The University of Central Lancashire‘s midwifery department really pushed the boat out the raise funds today for the International Day of the Midwife. The chosen charity is the African Midwives Fund 

Midwifery lecturer, Mercedes Perez-Botella looked every bit the part as she rode around the town rallying potential customers on a very old bike, in true Call the Midwife style!

It was a bit of a rush for me this morning to get to Preston, but after collecting Olivia’s home baked ginger biscuits and picking up Anita on route….we arrived heavily laden with cakes and books all ready to go! My daughter Anna is a midwifery lecturer at UCLan and with her colleagues and some student midwives has been planning and working hard to prepare the wares to sell for this important event. Anna’s dear friend, the lovely Carys who works as a midwife at Wythenshawe had made chutney, marmalade and jam, all labelled ‘made by midwives’. Her mum had knitted some toys, made hearts and other things to sell. A midwife from Preston made some very special handmade cards (I bought six!). I sold signed copies of my book Catching Babies, and the profit went to the charity. We also sold wonderfully crafted recipe books, created by an amazing Scottish midwife, Linda McDonald. I met Linda in Troon, where she explained the MUM’s project to me. Basically, Linda has developed three recipe books and the income generated from the sales goes to help develop maternity services in Malawi. Sarah Brown and Davina McCall have written forwards for the books, they are so impressed with Linda’s work.

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Toys by Carys’ Mum, Catching Babies and MUM’s recipe books for sale.

So we had lots to sell, and everyone worked hard to encourage cake buying! £600 was raised on the stall alone in four hours, and there was lots of discussion from the ‘customers’ about birth and health….thus raising the profile of the role of the midwife. A sponsored walk when the stall was emptied has raised more much needed money, and donations are still being taken! Congratulations to everyone for such a massive effort. Your time and energy will be someone’s improved maternity care. You couldn’t ask for more.

Made by Midwives!

Brighton: the English version

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My work as a midwife has brought us once more to the lovely English seaside resort of Brighton. I was here in September last year to give a talk to the midwifery students at Brighton University, and from that was invited to do a workshop on promoting normal birth for the maternity services at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals.

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Normal Birth workshop

Paul and I have happy memories of another Brighton, the one on the East Coast of Australia. It was there that we reunited with our lovely son Tom and his very lovely girlfriend Claire when we visited the Antipodes last September. Tom and Claire were working there and we were thrilled to see them looking so well and happy!

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Laura Woods

So this Brighton gave us the opportunity to reunite with another special person. Laura is our beautiful fun loving (and nut cracker thigh-ed!) friend, and she lives here with her outdoor active handsome boyfriend, Gerome. I first met Laura when she was a teenager and she was at the same dance school as Anna. Not only that, Laura was very talented (as Anna was) and we would watch her grace and strength with awe as she worked her magic through movement. Laura works in the dance world still, and does amazing things to engage potentially talented youngsters with the arts, through dance. We were also lucky enough to have Laura as our babysitter, and she was just as talented with our young ones. Laura proudly showed us the best places to go in Brighton, and as we sipped pink tinged wine, ate tapas, and listened to live music we chatted for hours about many things. Great stuff.

So now we make our way to Cathy and Rob’s White Wickets and we say goodbye to Brighton. As we pass through the East Sussex countryside through patchwork fields brightened by the yellow rapeseed blossom contrasting yet complementing the cornflower blue skies, we can’t help thinking about Simon and Caroline at Five. Five is a wonderful contemporary family run hotel that serves guests with a scrumptious organic breakfast at the start of the day. We had a comfortable room with a sea view, and Caroline kindly helped us to store and access our push bikes….

See you soon Brighton! 

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