According to the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) “In the mid 70s, the majority of pregnant women in UK had labour induced by artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) around the date they were “due”. These initials were used when the group needed a name, using the dictionary definition of “radical”, (roots, origins, basics, etc.) which aptly described the basic midwifery skills which they hoped to revive.”
In this spirit I offer a grass roots midwifery information service to women. I am an Independent Midwife, and as such I provide total midwifery care for women and their families, but the numbers I care for are small, and every woman needs good information. I’ve always served women by giving free information by telephone, and running a local ARM group, but again the numbers are limited, and so is my time. But I feel a huge need to pass on my knowledge of maternity rights and choices to women who may not even know that they have a choice.
Am I saying that the NHS is not giving women enough information or choice? No.
Am I saying women are unable to find out this information for themselves? Certainly not.
Pregnant women just don’t know what they don’t know. First – time mums may, or may not have read widely, they may, or may not have a relationship with a known NHS midwife, and the midwife may be too short of time, experience or knowledge herself to be able to help each individual. Without adequate information about choices in pregnancy the woman may feel she has no choice, and if things don’t go to plan, she may feel things were done to her without her fully informed consent. Feeling disempowered or not understanding why things were done to you in childbirth, can contribute to postnatal depression. After a poor experience women often look for further information and support to prevent the same happening in subsequent pregnancies.
As an Independent midwife many of my clients come seeking truly unbiased midwifery information, so they can feel empowered in their current pregnancy. Some have suffered previous birth trauma and wish to avoid similar happening again. But why wait until the second or subsequent pregnancy to get a positive birth experience? The first experience of birth is likely to be the most challenging, so it is important that we as midwives know how to serve you best. Unless you tell us what would help, or hinder you in labour, we will not know. Unless you know your rights and the choices available to you, you will not be able to instruct us in providing the right kind of care for you.
This is where writing birth preferences comes in useful. As an NHS midwife I would meet someone (often for the first time) in labour, and have to discuss all the pros and cons of different birth choices. I don’t mind explaining at all, but Labour is not the right time to be engaging the thinking part of a woman’s brain!
- Educate yourselves, know your rights and choices before labour starts.
- Write your birth preferences down. Discuss them with your birth supporters before labour, and share them with your midwife when labour is underway.
- If you don’t know why a course of treatment or an intervention is being suggested then please ask.
- If you don’t understand or don’t like the answer then ask someone else.
The Association for the Improvement in Maternity Services (AIMS) are a great resource for anyone having difficulty getting support for their birth choices. AIMS have a booklet entitled “Am I Allowed?” and all over it’s cover it has the word YES. Nothing can be done to you without your informed consent. If it has not been explained to you fully, you cannot make an informed choice. Please buy this book if nothing else (order from website, under “publications”).
Read also Mary Cronk’s assertiveness phrases and practice them in front of a mirror.
Birth Rights is a new organisation founded by a human rights lawyer. The website contains useful fact sheets on rights in childbirth.
If you live local to me then find out when I am next holding a midwifery clinic in my Birth Bus (campervan). I park at various locations locally, to give information and answer queries about rights and choices. Just text or email me for dates and venues. These do vary according to my midwifery caseload.
Remember that knowledge is power, and you don’t know what you don’t know- BUT you can always find out and ask WHY?