Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Birthrights comments on midwives and normal birth

In response to this weekend’s news coverage of the Royal College of Midwives, Birthrights’ CEO Rebecca Schiller gave this comment to the Sunday Times:

“The RCM’s decision to change the name of its campaign to the ‘Better Births Campaign’ took place in 2014. I welcomed this and continue to value the RCM’s drive to ensure women have access to the very best births no matter their circumstances and whatever their wishes. Birthrights has worked closely with the RCM to train midwives across the country in their human rights obligations. These obligations make it very clear that – whatever the health care professional’s personal beliefs – women must always be provided with the best evidence available, pressure should never be put on them to do something they don’t want to and their decision is to be respected. Whether women want a home birth or an epidural, the RCM has demonstrated their commitment to promoting care that responds to women’s needs.

I welcome a shift away from the use of the term “normal”, as it’s a term that has caused unnecessary division and become needlessly politicised. No-one should tell a woman how she should give birth, but should listen to her and work with her to develop a plan that fits her needs and circumstances.

Intervention in childbirth can be life-saving and midwives work with obstetricians during complex pregnancies and births every day. However, the reality remains that many women want to avoid unnecessary intervention in childbirth as it comes with its own set of risks to their physical and emotional health. It is clear from the evidence base that, in our current maternity system, too many women who don’t want and need intervention end up with it – sometimes with long-lasting consequences. So it is essential that we ensure that midwives’ pivotal role in supporting physiological birth is protected, while remaining supportive of all women’s choices. We must also campaign with them for services that genuinely enable the women who want to, to access care that minimises their chances of having an intervention they didn’t need.

The current trend to use terms such as the “cult” of midwifery, pointing the finger of blame at midwives and seeking to devalue their profession, autonomy and valuable role in our maternity system is deeply concerning. The media focus on this three-year-old change of campaign name is just another example of the contemporary witchhunt of midwives that ultimately makes pregnancy birth less safe and more stressful for women at a vulnerable time in their lives.”

13 thoughts on “Birthrights comments on midwives and normal birth”

  1. Thanks Rebecca for highlighting the crucial role of midwifery care delivered in countless health organisations across the UK with many positive experiences most of the time.
    For us to do better we need adequate resources (numbers of midwives) training, a trusting working relationship with our peers and work with women tirelessly to deliver the best care possible. We have countless expressions of gratitude from women and families which is the norm and not the negative publicity that taints our profession. I welcome your suggestion on campaigning for what is best for women and their babies.

  2. Very well expressed, Rebecca. What a breath of fresh air to hear constructive discussion. Print media, looking for angles, creating and emphasising conflict and division, seems tired.

  3. I hope that Australia can follow suit and strengthen the ability to support women with their choices while also supporting the midwives who protect that birth space. Too often, the professional midwife is left high & dry with legislation that does not nurture them & indemnity insurance that does not cover the whole spectrum of birthing choices

  4. Very well said! Stand strong. Stand tall, Stand proud, Speak out and silence the naysayers, the misogynists, the scaremongerers, the power-seekers. Women need midwives. Midwives need women. Time to turn the tide together once again ✋️

  5. Finally a World leader speaking common sense. Thank you Rebecca for your eloquent presentation. Let’s hope Australia joins the sensibility of our profession and that midwives can be strong advocates, not intimidated by institutionalisation and remain beside women all the way through pregnancy, labour, birth and breastfeeding.

  6. It makes my blood boil that the headline grabbers who seek to defame our profession get heard more than the good news stories. I have always felt there is some feminist issues here as the profession is as always female dominated and the paternalistic attitudes seek to keep us professionally in our place. The agenda of some has meant the end of our beloved supervision which has many many more good examples than the ones hijacked by some who have harnessed it to wield it against us. We should unite, stay strong and support our women as we’ve always done with the best of intentions at heart supporting women’s choice and providing the best care we can under this terrible underfunded system that we live and work in. After All what the hell has a change in name meant only to satisfy those ready to sacrifice individuals in our profession.


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