"Choose Your Midwife" Protest - 25th March

by Amity Reed // 19 March 2013, 21:25

Tags: activism, birth, children, healthcare, midwives, mothers, NHS, pregnancy, protest, reproductive rights, work

 You may not have children yet. You may have given birth long ago, or parent children you didn't physically give birth to. You may not ever want children. You may have absolutely no interest in or knowledge of birth, babies or midwives. And even though it might seem irrelevant to you at this moment, the rights of pregnant women are incredibly important to all of us and to the basic tenets of reproductive freedom. Just as we must be able to decide how, when and whether we become mothers, so too must we have the right to choose how, when and with whom we give birth.

Yet, in a few short months, pregnant women will no longer have that right. Instead of having the option to hire a highly qualified and registered independent midwife, mothers-to-be will be forced to opt into the NHS to receive care in labour, even if the NHS cannot or will not support an individual woman's needs, circumstances or wishes. Indeed, in too many cases, women are receiving no continuity of care, often left feeling isolated, disempowered, and even traumatised by a strained and fragmented NHS maternity service. This is of particular concern to women who have had previous traumatic births under NHS care (some of whom have been diagnosed with clinical PTSD); women who harbour anxiety and phobias of hospitals or medical procedures; those who would simply like a more personable, woman-centred experience than what most NHS trusts can offer; and those who are being refused care, threatened or heavily dissuaded from making choices that fall outside of NHS guidelines.

If Parliament does nothing to help find a more amenable solution, an EU directive will come into effect on 25th October 2013 requiring all health care providers to have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) in order to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a legal requirement to practise. This insurance is provided by the NHS for midwives working in its trusts, but cannot be obtained by those who work directly for the women they serve, independently. Without PII insurance, independent midwives may lose their registration and, in effect, become illegal. You can learn more about the directive on the Independent Midwives UK website.

For a personal account from one woman whose life and that of her foetus were saved by having her own midwife, highlighting the importance of individual care, please watch this video (click the "Continue reading" link below for a transcript):

The biggest concern here, aside from the injustice of midwives losing their livelihoods, is that women who continue to choose to give birth outside the NHS will do so alone and unassisted, resulting in an increase in adverse outcomes. As insurance and liability concerns take precedence over the quality and range of care provided, the UK will become more and more like the United States, where independent midwives are illegal in many states. There, thousands of women give birth unassisted or seek the services of an underground network of lay midwives, (not all of whom have the proper training and qualifications), resulting in a climate of distrust towards midwives in general and in women's ability to make good choices about their bodies and lives. The American system pits women whose choices fall outside the prescribed norm against the medical establishment, forcing them to act illegally or forego their human rights. Do we want that kind of environment in the UK?

A campaign called 'Choose Your Midwife, Choose Your Birth' has been mounted to protest this upcoming change and appeal to the government to find a workable solution that does not involve axing independent midwifery - a service David Cameron himself has referred to as the 'gold standard' of maternity care. The campaign has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, with an e-petition circulating and an ITV1 documentary airing this Thursday 21st March at 9pm called 'Home Delivery', following independent midwife Virginia Howes as she provides care to couples in Kent.

A silent protest will be held outside Parliament at 11am on Monday 25th March with an opportunity to meet with MPs to discuss this issue, followed by a march to the Department of Health where speeches will be made. T-shirts and wristbands will be available for purchase on the day from marshalls. Be sure to look for more details and updates on the 'Choose Your Midwife, Choose Your Birth' Facebook page and on Twitter @IMUK2013. Your support and solidarity -- whether by signing the petition, writing to your MP, attending the march or simply spreading the word -- is greatly appreciated by both midwives and mothers.

Video transcript

Hey everyone, I'm Laura AKA Mrs M from Gifts from the Pirates, and today I'm going to be talking about something that's really dear to mine and Polly's hearts. We don't talk about things that are personal too much on the blog, because it's not about that, it's about the boys and their toys and things like that. But unfortunately a situation's come up that needs addressing and that is that unfortunately independent midwives from this year will be no more, unless we start doing something about it. And you might be wondering why I'm talking about independent midwifery on the blog, but we had an independent midwife when I was pregnant with Opeie because I was really ill, and also because I have a massive fear of hospitals. I used to have a massive fear - phobia - of injections, I was absolutely terrified of anyone touching me in that way, with needles and everything. So that is the reason why we had an independent midwife, and I know that I've mentioned and touched upon in the past that I was really ill through my pregnancy, but I didn't go into it that much. If you follow me on YouTube, my videos on there, you'll know more about that, that I lost all my hair and things, but you won't understand why I was ill. So, I'm going to try and go through it as quickly as I can.

But the reason why we made this video is because we feel so strongly that women should have a choice when it comes to choosing their midwife and when it comes to choosing the birth that they want, and that they should have the same midwife from the start of the pregnancy to the end, and that midwife should see them all the way through til they get their baby at the end. Well, unfortunately the government have decided that to stay a midwife legally under the independent umbrella they need something called indemnity insurance. Now, midwives are completely insured to operate as a midwife, but they don't have indemnity insurance, and basically it's kind of like the ultimate insurance. You can Google it - I don't know everything about it. Basically, the government have said that any professional, medical person that isn't inside the NHS umbrella needs to have private indemnity insurance.

Now, the problem is there isn't any indemnity insurance available for midwives, so unfortunately midwives are going to be illegal from October of this year, and we've only got a few weeks left - til May time I think it is - to sort this out and get the signatures we need on our petition. Now, because there's no indemnity insurance available, the independent midwives hands are completely tied in that if they go to a birth or attend a birth where there's no NHS person present, or they intervene if some medical trauma happens out of the blue and they act on it, they then can be fined and actually put in jail. Now this has already happened with Agnes Gereb, and she's actually been in and out of jail and on house arrest for a very long time, and that's in a different country completely to England, but unfortunately, if we don't act and get independent midwifery on a solid ground, this is what our real hard working midwives are facing.

I'll just quickly spend a minute or two explaining why we're so passionate about independent midwifery, then hopefully you'll be able to sign a petition in support of that. Basically, when I found out I was pregnant with Opeie, a week after I found out at six weeks pregnant/five and a half weeks pregnant, I started having real bad sickness and when I say real bad sickness I was sick up to 50, 60 times per day, couldn't keep any water down, let alone a sweet, food, nothing would stay down. And I was really dehydrated, to the point where one of the doctors at my local hospital said he'd never seen ketones so high in somebody's body, in their urine, you know, I was really really ill. And this continued my entire pregnancy until Opeie was born way overdue.

But basically, why I'm so passionate about independent midwifery is because of the care I received when I was pregnant with Opeie. Had I have not had an independent midwife, as dramatic as it sounds, I very much doubt that Opeie would be here, because the NHS' answer to my illness and what I was experiencing and what I then later went on to experience was "You need to have a termination. A termination, that's the only option, a termination is the only thing we can do to solve this". Not kind of looking at other drugs that they could have given me to prevent the sickness. And then I was kind of fobbed off, that I was overdramatizing it, that it was sometimes in my head, and one doctor said to me that it was no worse than fasting, being hungry, because I was throwing up so much and so dehydrated. And the list went on and on. And when I was seven weeks pregnant - I'd only technically been pregnant three weeks 'cos you don't count the first four - I collapsed, and basically I was rushed into hospital via ambulance, where at A&E the doctor told me there was nothing wrong with me. They put a bag of fluid, let probably an inch of the fluid run through, they needed the bed in A&E, I was shipped out. I was sick everywhere in the hospital, all over the floor - it wasn't just normal sick either, I won't go into it but it was stomach lining, blood, bile, you know, the works. I went home really, really dehydrated, I kept passing out every time I was sick.

The next day Amanda got me into my local hospital, well, the one a bit further out that's the main hospital where I live. They put another bag of fluid, said they'd never seen anyone so dehydrated, I was in 24 hours, got ferried out again because they needed the bed, and four days later I woke up having been sick all week with really bad chest pains. And hyperemesis gravidarum, which I had, is like nothing else. It's like having permanent, extreme food poisoning. You can't think properly because you feel so ill, you're constantly being sick, you can't keep fluids down, you can't keep food down, nothing will stay down. And I went to the GP with severe chest pain and basically she said that I'd overstrained my lung, about here [gestures to top of lung]. So I went home - oh, but she also said "It could be that you've got a PE, but, you know, I don't think it's that". Went home, Amanda [her midwife] rang and said "How did you get on at the doctor's? What do they think it is, is it your asthma playing up?". And I said "Well, she thinks it's kind of a lung strain, but it could be a PE, I don't really know what a PE is but she didn't explain what a PE was to me." Amanda said "Right, you need to get to hospital right now, because a PE is a serious condition, it can kill you instantly, you need to get to hospital."

So I got to the hospital, and they gave me different medications and stuff and a drip, and the next day, because they were too busy to do it there and then, I had some radioactive dye type thing injected into my veins and they found that I had two pulmonary embolisms, which is two blood clots in my lung. And had I had stayed at home I either would have had a major stroke or a heart attack, which would have obviously either brain damaged Opeie or killed Opeie, the foetus, I don't know what would have happened. Probably it would have killed me, because I later found out that when you have this, especially with having two clots, it's very dangerous, and your chances of surviving are 1 in 3 - you get like a 30% chance of survival rate. And my cousin who is a doctor, a consultant, she has told me in the past when I was ill that she's seen people, young people, drop dead from it. So it's something to be taken seriously.

Now, my entire pregnancy, the NHS really didn't do a lot to kind of help me, they didn't take my condition seriously. I was admitted 23 times in total for my sickness, and they literally didn't care one bit about my mental state, the fact that I was severely anaemic, in a wheelchair because I couldn't walk, because I was so out of breath from having an HB level of 7 point something. They didn't care, they didn't want to do anything, and if it hadn't been for my independent midwife I don't know what would have happened. And that's why it's so important that we act now and do something about it. Because unfortunately if we don't, people that have difficult pregnancies and have the circumstances that I experienced in my pregnancy, they won't have the option to choose their midwife or choose their birth or anything like that. They won't get the choice or the option.

So all I'm asking is two minutes to fill in a petition - just your name, address, that's it - and that will help us get our 150,000 signatures. Because it's really, really important we do this, not just for ourselves but for future generations, because the government can't dictate to us as women our human rights, who we want to care for us during our pregnancies and our births. So I'd be really grateful if you could do the petition and hopefully I'll speak to you soon in the comments. Thank you, bye.

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 20 March 2013 at 08:16

I very much support this campaign and the experiences of Mrs M in the video are just awful - I'm really glad she was able to get the support she needs. However, in the context of the government's attacks on the NHS, I did want to say that I think it's really important we don't demonise the NHS as a whole or blame individual staff for failings that often (though not always) lie in a lack of funding and mismanagement, which can lead to overstretched, underpaid staff not being able to provide the care they would like to.

Every woman should have access to free, good quality maternity care, and this would be possible through the NHS if it was managed and funded correctly. I can't imagine many women can afford an independent midwife, after all.

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