Interview: Vicky Garner
Campaigner and founder of www.thebirthiwant.org.uk
Tell us about the campaign.
We're campaigning for all mothers to have the support of the same midwife during their pregnancy, birth and in the weeks after. I had my third baby a year ago and what really struck me was that mothers in different parts of the country are all getting different care.
For example, I live in Cornwall and wanted a home birth, but they said they couldn't guarantee that someone could come out to me because they are so busy.
I started to look at why women are having such different experiences and to ask women what sort of care they actually want.
For the past nine months mothers have been telling us of their experiences of midwifery and birth on the website. They are all different of course, but there is a common thread. Women truly value having a midwife they know and trust by their side during pregnancy, the birth and in the weeks after. As it is, care is patchy. Some people have amazing care and others feel they have seen so many different midwives during the course of their care.
What are the effects on women of having a midwife they don't know when they have their baby?
What women are telling us is that whether someone has a positive or negative experience of birth is largely down to whether they know and trust their midwife. Even if things don't go to plan, if they have a midwife they know by their side it is less traumatic. Unless they are lucky enough to get a midwife they click with, mothers tend to feel less in control at the birth without a midwife they know supporting them. Some mothers say they have suffered from post-natal depression or post-traumatic stress disorder after the birth, because they felt that no one was being an advocate for them when they felt at their most vulnerable.
What do you want to see happen?
The Government has said that every woman should have a named midwife, because they know it delivers the best outcomes for women. Research shows there is less intervention, higher rates of breastfeeding and, overall, it saves the NHS money.
Sadly, despite Government promises and wide recognition of the importance of continuity of care, the majority of women are not given the opportunity to develop this kind of relationship with their midwife. The system is just not set up this way.
So we need changes to the system, and as part of that we need to make providing continuity of care also work for midwives.
With clinical commissioning just around the corner, women have a real chance to influence the shape of maternity care in their area. It's the perfect time for the Government to ensure that midwives are properly paid for the hours that they work and the job that they do.
Providing one-to-one care to a woman, through pregnancy, birth and in the weeks after requires midwives to work in a different way to most midwives currently do. For example they would sometimes need to be on call 24/7 - for some midwives this will not appeal, particularly those with young families. But there are ways to make this kind of care work better for midwives. For example, if they are able to manage their own caseload of women, if they are paid properly in recognition of being on call, if they can work part time.
With clinical commissioning just around the corner, women have a real chance to influence the shape of maternity care in their area. It's the perfect time for the government to ensure that midwives are properly paid for the hours that they work and the job that they do, that the system incentivises the kind of care that works for women and that there are enough midwives to cope with the rising birth rate. And it is the perfect time for women to start asking for the care that works for them.