Midwifery • 10 July 2008 • The SnowBlog
The front page of the Guardian today is all about the state of maternity care in the NHS at the moment, which I have something of a vested interest in. Summary: it's not pretty. The Guardian reports that "the most serious concerns at poorly performing trusts include:
Insufficient midwives available. Some women report being left alone and frightened during labour.
Women not getting the continuity of care with the midwives they met before birth. Obstetricians not spending enough time on the labour ward - despite the Royal College's recommendations.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence on risky pregnancies not being followed.
Too few beds and bathrooms being made available.
Care and support for women after the birth not being good enough."
Yep, sounds like my experience so far and the experience of almost every mother writing on mumsnet.com who's given birth in hospital, the leading forum for all things motherly. This is why Andy has saved my bacon by shelling out 3000 for an independent midwife, and why I'm having a home waterbirth with hypnobirthing (all being well). No, I'm not a hippy. No, I don't trust medics. Ever read The House of God?
Could be worse, though. I could live in America, where childbirth is almost entirely medicalised, midwives are a dying breed and the intervention cascade is even more prevalent than here (the thing that happens if, say, you get induced, which leads to stronger contractions, which leads to more pain relief required, possibly epidurals, which leads to a slow down in labour, which leads to a distressed baby, which leads to a c-section.) If you can find it on the internet, watch The Business of Childbirth (the makers are enforcing their copyright so it's not freely available to view, but worth it if you can find it).
And on the note of independent midwives, here's an astonishing thing. In two years, they could be outlawed in the UK. Yep, it would be illegal to trade as one. Why? Because currently it is impossible to buy insurance as an indie midwife. (Well, you could go to Lloyds, but the annual premiums would be in the hundreds of thousands per policy.) Since there are so few independent midwives in the UK, the market isn't big enough for the insurance companies to make any money from it, so they just don't offer it. That's fine, since those of us who hire indies recognise that there's no insurance. However, the government are currently proposing legislation to make the practice of midwifery illegal without insurance cover. Ergo - illegal to practice. Read more here and sign the petition - please.
(And please DON'T comment on the fact that I'm having a homebirth if you think they're somehow dangerous, unless you have read more about it than me. Go here if you want to find out more.)