The Birth I Want…

Today’s post is a guest post by Vicky Taylor, who is part of a UK Non-Profit Organisation called The Birth I Want. Their aim is to build a picture of current midwifery care across the UK, and make our voices heard about the birth that we want.

Has birth ever been so far from women-centered? How has it come to be that the mother and the baby she is carrying have so little influence over the policy that decides the type of care she receives in pregnancy and birth?

It’s not that the “powers that be” don’t realise that care needs to be more woman-centred – or at least that women want it to be. Successive governments have pledged to make it so. Yet here we are in 2012, nearly 20 years on from the seminal report Changing Childbirth which first made that promise, and what do we find? Pressures on NHS midwives creating ever more impossible situations where mothers-to-be are having to fight for the birth they want; with independent midwifery under threat because of over prescriptive legislation and fear of litigation; with a rigid and inflexible approach to implementation of policy; and with too many targets, too many protocols and funding locked into the medicalisation of childbirth. Every one of these driving women into the very outcomes they say they don’t want and driving up costs to the NHS. How can this be good for mothers, their babies and their families?

There is no one size fits all solution to birth, we are all different, every birth is different, yet policy makers all too often try to squeeze it quietly and conveniently into rigid boxes that can be managed efficiently and safely and in a uniform way. Often with the best of intentions (‘safety’) it creates an institutionalised bureaucracy of birth, an inflexible machine, with built in bureaucratic disrespect for the specific needs or wants of the mother even when the individual midwives, nurses and doctors might do it differently if they could. Increasingly this way of working as ‘cogs in a machine’ is wringing the life out of traditional midwifery. Yet it’s traditional, mum-centered midwifery that mothers are shouting out for.

Time and again surveys, studies, articles and reports have flagged up the wants and needs of women; more one to one care, a trusting relationship with their midwives, access to information, access to real choice over where they have their baby, for flexibility in approach. The evidence is clear this drives better outcomes too, at lower cost. It is even being heard (endless governments have told us it’s what they plan to do), it’s just that on the whole it’s left hanging there in space – the road to medicalised bureaucratic birth is paved with good intentions.

But change is in the air, it’s almost tangible. The debate around midwifery and birth is raging and it’s time for mums to bring together their collective voices and to stand up for the birth we want. We are the ones having the babies – we are starting to demand to be part of shaping our care.

The Birth I Want is a new campaign with its sole purpose being to bring mums bang smack into the middle of the midwifery and birth debate. Its backbone is the bountiful experience and knowledge that mums have of midwifery care and birth, capturing it and using it so that decision makers are left in no doubt as to the birth we want. Please help us reclaim birth – The Birth I Want