You know what? If I was pregnant I'd want continuity of care. For that, it's very likely I'd need to choose an independent midwife.
To me, the current situation is as serious as women not being able to access termination of pregnancy.
Because when women are not given adequate choices, they take matters into their own hands.
I'll back up a bit (I'm furious as you can tell).
Three working days before Christmas, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (The NMC, the government's regulator of Nurses and Midwives) informed independent midwives that their indemnity insurance was no longer adequate for labour care.
They were given just three weeks to make other arrangements for their clients.
From a client's point of view this looks like:
Carefully choosing an independent midwife, often due to birth trauma or other complex reasons. Building a relationship with this midwife over several months.
Paying the independent midwife's fee (not nearly as much as some think, by the way). Having the midwife get to know their family and settling into a relationship based on mutual trust.
Knowing they have someone who is on their side who will arrive during the most important moments of their life.
Being told, close to their labour that their midwife can no longer look after them. And their midwife may not even attend as a support person while they are having NHS care, unless they are a family member.
Many women in this situation will start to think about freebirthing (i.e. giving birth with no professional present).
You know I try not to criticise, it's not my style.
But midwifery is a progressive profession, based on a respectful partnership care model. And this decision doesn't seem progressive.
The other strange thing is the NMC won't say what adequate insurance would be, making it impossible for independent midwives to meet their demands.
Independent Midwives UK, who are the support organisation for independent midwives, have taken medical/legal advice and come to solid conclusions about adequate insurance, or so they thought. But they've hit a wall (many independent midwives are saying they feel like they're being asked to jump through an invisible hoop).
This group of midwives often leads the way in terms of excellent maternity care. They are losing income. They are also under immense emotional pressure.
I know this is a difficult to hear because when you first approach midwifery, you think, surely the NMC is a good thing?
It's there to protect women and babies. But in this instance, it doesn't seem to be doing this well.
We live in a democracy. If a government body isn't working for us, we get to change it.
Here's what you can do:
1. Write to the NMC. It doesn't matter whether you are an aspiring, student or qualified midwife, or a concerned person, your voice still counts (and you can't get disciplined for protesting, even as a student or qualified midwife). The NMC are there to serve women and families. They have to listen to complaints. Their email address is: email@example.com (see below for a letter you can change and adapt)
2. Write to your MP. Use the letter below for inspiration.
3. Donate to Birth Rights and share everything they have to say on the matter. Birth Rights is a charity that acts to protect human rights in childbirth.
4. Join the Women's Equality Party and write to them letting them know what's happening.
5. If you're really strapped for time and can't do the above, talk to people about this, share articles on Facebook, and COMMENT on this post to let independent midwives know you are with them.
Not to get sexist, but I know from my stats that if you're reading this, you're likely to be female. You are a woman with a public voice. Think about how unusual that is, in the history of your country. Use it!
There is an official petition in the pipeline too, I'll let you know when it's up.
I know with the supervisors of midwives being taken from statute, the midwifery committee disappearing, and now this, these few weeks have been scary. The challenges in midwifery can feel insurmountable.
But I always think about the anthropologist Margaret Mead’s quote "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Midwives who up until recently would have had very limited reach now have a voice. I'm thinking of Sheena Byrom, Mark Harris, Virginia Howes (see this heartbreaking video on what this news means for her and her pregnant daughter), Amanda Burleigh and others.
Even Mary Cronk is on YouTube.
Things are moving in the right direction.
There's 'The Roar Behind The Silence', the 'Caring For Your' RCM Campaign and 'Better Births'.
It's slow and it always takes a huge amount of time to make a difference. But if you look at the last fifty years in maternity care, things are getting better, not worse.
You are powerful when you decide to back a cause you believe in. The future of midwifery is in our hands, because who else is there?
Thanks for reading and allowing me to write for you. Even if this cause doesn't fire you up as much as it does me, I hope it inspires you to find another women's rights issue that does.
With all my love and best wishes for you and yours,
A template letter you can adapt:
We are devastated by the recent move by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to stop Independent Midwives from attending clients in labour. As Independent Midwives are often women’s only option to make choices for their care (as the NHS cannot always accommodate needs such as homebirth), and many choose them due to birth trauma or other complex and distressing situations, we see this as a human rights issue.
If you listen to women reacting to this news many are talking about freebirth instead of accessing NHS care as they feel their mental and physical wellbeing being adversely affected by NHS care is not something they can risk.
The rights of women to choose who is with them in labour has been taken away.
I beg you to consider the lives put at risk and women’s right to choice being taken from them if this is not rectified.
I look forward to hearing from you.