Sunday, 7 March 2010

Mothers March because Maternity Matters

Today I joined over a thousand mothers, fathers and children marched from Lambeth to Downing Street, to protest about the closure of the Albany Unit in Peckham, south London. It supported women to give birth wherever they choose – almost half give birth at home – and medical intervention rates were low. All women have their babies delivered by the midwife they have seen throughout their pregnancy, and the group's caesarean and medical intervention rates were very low.

However, South London’s King's College Hospital terminated its contract last year, alleging that a disproportionate number of the babies it delivered suffered damage during the birth.

Children, many of whom brandished placards stating that they had been born at the Albany Hospital, marched to Downing Street to hand in a petition asking for the Albany midwives to be allowed to return to work.

Speakers at the rally included Professor Wendy Savage, a long-time campaigner for maternity rights and renowned obstetrician, and Beverley Beech, chair of the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS).

The strength of feeling at this march was incredible. There’s a sense that, despite the government’s pledge that ‘maternity matters’, women are still not being listened to. Home births are still not an option for many women. By the Royal College of Midwives’ estimation, we are approximately 5,000 midwives short in the UK. Women are ending up with unnecessary interventions and are being traumatised. The day you give birth to a child is one you will remember for the rest of your life, and for many women it is a terrifying experience. This is partly because our medical approach to birth is completely wrong, and this is exacerbated by a chronic shortage of midwives.

I lodged complaints with both the Healthcare Commission and the Nursing and Midwifery Council after giving birth at the Royal Free in 2007. A catalogue of errors left me in labour for 48 hours, at which point an emergency caesarean was performed. I was then subjected to bullying by one midwife, who ordered me not to breastfeed. It was no surprise that The Ham and High reported later that year that high levels of complaints had been made about midwives at the hospital.

That the Albany midwives have been stopped from practising means that we have lost the ‘gold standard’ that all women should be entitled to. It was important to have this unit because it served as a reminder of what birth can, and should, be like. If I had had a one-to-one relationship with a midwife throughout my pregnancy, if I had been listened to in a non-pressurised environment, my experience would have been completely different. Bringing new lives into the world has to be one of the most important things to get right, and that’s why I was marching with my daughter today.

1 comment:

  1. There is no Albany hospital, the Albany practise is a group of midwives, formerly contracted by Kings College Hospital, to provide community maternity services in Peckham. Almost half of the babies are born at home, and those born in hospital would likely be born at Kings.