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Saturday, 13 January 2018

200 women freebirth annually in London (London Evening Standard 11.1.18)

It's not often the London Evening Standard publishes anything of interest (neo-liberal, property-price obsessed, consumerist, growth-addicted rag edited by George Osborne the previous Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer) but this week it had a headline (p.13) "Mothers shun midwives for "free births"".
None of the 170 to 200 women who had freebirthed in London last year was interviewed, so whether midwives are being shunned or whether medicalised care or lack of continuity is being shunned, we do not know.  You may be glad to hear that Kenny Gibson, NHS England's head of public health commissioning in London is "not unduly concerned".  Perhaps Kenny may like to stop being so complacent, look a little deeper and commission the sorts of services that women want, before jumping to his conclusion that freebirth is just another choice for affluent women (see article). 

With the Standard's usual lack of logic, there is alongside this "shunning" story, another titled "2000 choose private help costing up to £5000".
This tells us that continuity of care is hugely important to women (both a midwife and mother appear in this article) and it is very positive about Neighbourhood Midwives, a group of independent midwives working in London and across much of south-east England, who clearly aren't being shunned by mothers at all!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY FOR MIDWIVES - Consultation on regulation of UK health professionals

The UK Department of Health has published a consultation document called "Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation" which proposes to simplify the regulation of all health professionals, reduce costs, make fitness to practice procedures more equitable and less adversarial, and radically reduce the number of regulators.

The outcome almost certainly means that the NMC will be abolished and a new body set up, probably encompassing other professions as well as midwives and nurses.  To ensure that this works to protect and promote good midwifery, and brings an end to the ill-advised and inefficacious nursing/legal hegemony of the NMC, midwives and user groups need to contribute to this consultation.  

The document (only 50 pages, fairly readable) is at

The consultation closes on 23rd January.

A meeting of midwives and user reps will take place on Saturday 13th January at The Friend's Meeting House in central Manchester to discuss how best to respond for women and midwives.

For further information about this meeting, contact Katherine Hales (National Coordinator for the Association of Radical Midwives) at

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail, for those of you outside the UK, is a terrible newspaper - reactionary, divisive, negative, horrible, and it will basically say anything about anyone to get a sale.  The level of journalism is dreadful and, whatever the aspirations of its journalists on entering their profession, they have kissed any vision of informing the public "goodbye".  There is currently a campaign to persuade major companies to stop advertising in The Daily Mail (and similar rags) called #StopFundingHate.

This week The Daily Fail's hatred involved a midwife, Sheena Byrom OBE, a well-known British midwife who is a campaigner for women-centred services and continuity of care.  The level of vindictive crap in this article, which is no more than a long string of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, has outraged us all. 

Many birth activists, midwives and birth workers have complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation and the Daily Mail have removed the scores of condemnatory comments that were left on the Mail Online website but not, so far, its scurrilous article.

Midwives and allies are coming together to end the bullying and harassment of those who speak up for woman-centred care and the importance of normal birth for the health and well-being of women and babies.  The on-line stalking of Sheena Byrom is disturbing, malevolent, and perpetrated only by those who think they know everything but understand nothing.  SAY NO TO BULLYING IN MIDWIFERY.  SAY NO TO THE BULLYING OF WOMEN WHO CHOOSE TO BIRTH UNDER THEIR OWN STEAM.

Well eventually UM got a reply from IPSO but no action.  Indeed IPSO's response reinforces the dial-a-quote-without-bothering-to-understand-the-issues school of journalism.  It's one quote from Kirkup that seems to trump all the other issues that led to the deaths there, and John Buckingham has himself latched on to it:

"I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “NHS still forces mums into natural birth even when C-section is best”, published by the Daily Mail on 20 November 2017.

On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that the issues raised fall within our remit, and represent a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint.

You said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it misrepresented the issues involved in the Morecambe Bay scandal, suggesting that it was a result of pursuing natural births ‘at any cost’.

We note that the report of the Kirkup Inquiry is at the following link:

We note that paragraph 4 of the Executive summary states that:
4. The origin of the problems we describe lay in the seriously dysfunctional nature of the maternity service at Furness General Hospital (FGH). Clinical competence was substandard, with deficient skills and knowledge; working relationships were extremely poor, particularly between different staff groups, such as obstetricians, paediatricians and midwives; there was a growing move amongst midwives to pursue normal childbirth ‘at any cost’; there were failures of risk assessment and care planning that resulted in inappropriate and unsafe care; and the response to adverse incidents was grossly deficient, with repeated failure to investigate properly and learn lessons.

5. Together, these factors comprised a lethal mix that, we have no doubt, led to the unnecessary deaths of mothers and babies….

Where these were the findings of the inquiry, we did not consider it was misleading for the article under complaint to note that the pursuit of natural birth “at any cost”, formed part of the circumstances in which there were 11 avoidable deaths at Morecambe Bay. This aspect of your complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

We should explain that IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly involved in the coverage, or journalistic activity, which gives rise to the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we will need to consider the position of the party most closely involved.

You also said that the article was inaccurate in the way in which it characterised the Royal College of Midwives’ decision to drop its Normal Birth Campaign. We noted that Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the college was reported to have said that the campaign had “created the wrong idea”. In any event, we decided that the alleged breach related most closely to the Royal College of Midwives. Having taken into account its position, we considered it would not be appropriate to investigate your complaint without its input and consent. Because of this, we were not be able to consider this aspect of your complaint further.

You also said that the article breached Clause 3 (Harassment) because it harassed Sheena Byrom, and Clause 2 (Privacy) because it disclosed her payment without disclosing what this was made for.
In these cases, the alleged breaches of the Code related directly to Sheena Byrom, and as you are not acting on her behalf with her consent and knowledge, we were not able to consider these aspects of your complaint further.

For more information about third party complaints, and why it can be difficult for us to take them forwards, this blog may be of interest.

You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision not to take forward your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us in the next seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made seven days after the date of this email.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised.

Best wishes,

John Buckingham"

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Oxytocin Measures - midwives taking a critical look at oxytocin regimes for induction and augmentation.

UM met a beautiful and strong midwife yesterday who is part of a small group determined that the maternity community, both in the UK and across the world, takes a long, hard, critical look at the way syntocinon is used to induce or augment labour.

This group have looked hard at the drug insert and what Novartis Pharmaceuticals, the main manufacturer of the syntocinon in use for labour acceleration, says, and have discovered that a huge proportion of women and their unborn babies are being subjected to off-licensed dosages, with potentially adverse consequences in birth experience and outcome.  They are determined to bring this to the attention of professionals, the public, and policy-makers.

Their website (still under construction in some areas) is here: and they also can be found on Facebook  The website has a facility to sign up for updates on their work.

The group aim to produce information for women and professionals so that consent to induction can be informed consent.  Given the crudity of 21st century induction of labour techniques, having a group devoted to exploring this issue is a positive development.

Great work!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Osborne Kneeling Chair - a great bit of kit!

Margaret Jowitt, UK physiologist and long-term birth activist, has combined her skills to develop the Osborne Kneeling Chair for birth centres and labour wards everywhere.  All is beautifully shown on this short film.

Margaret has been working on this project for a number of years and has refined her design to meet all infection control and other institutional requirements, whilst making sure that her basic idea of enabling free movement and facilitating upright labour and birth are not compromised.  The final product looks astonishingly simple but has taken hours, months, years of research, design, engineering and investment.  UM wishes her all the best with getting this superb product into birthing rooms across Europe and beyond.

Friday, 6 October 2017

New AIMS book on gestational diabetes

The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (for whom we all, mothers and midwives, give thanks in the UK) have published a new book on Gestational Diabetes available from

image of Gestational Diabetes book
The author has tried to make this complicated and increasingly ubiquitous issue of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy understandable, point out where decisions, choices and issues of consent arise, and give information around these.  The book covers all areas of pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period as well as longer-term issues.  There is a useful resource section and some lovely illustrations by Jennifer Williams.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Professor Soo Downe explaining in simple terms WHAT WOMEN WANT!

The link below is to a YouTube clip of Soo Downe, Professor of Midwifery Studies at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, summarising what women want from maternity care according to research on this important area. 

Why are these findings important to hold before us in any discussion about the maternity services?  Because too many people - journalists, politicians, and general misogynists - have seen fit to pontificate in the UK press over the summer on their views of what women should want with absolutely no reference to the views or insights of women or any other experts in the field (user groups, midwives, obstetricians, doulas, hypnobirthing teachers etc).

Soo enumerates simply and effectively why misogynistic fantasies about risk-averse medico-techno-delivery will always miss their mark - women want their embodied experiences of birth to take place within a context of love, support and kindness.  The real risk of not having the latter trumps the putative risks of not having the former.  But UM doubts Jeremy Hunt and his cronies will get it, alas.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

'"Refugees from mainstream maternity care"- Australian freebirths may rise

This is an interesting update on the situation in Australia where insurance companies have also sabotaged women's choice as EU Directives (prompted by which interests? and ably aided and abetted by the NMC), have in the UK.  But whatever the reason, women are being cheated of free choice in birth and corralled into establishment-controlled births, with self-determination and ownership of one's own body and its processes being steadily taken away.  Freebirth is a powerful resistance but is itself becoming an unfree choice.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Paracetamol and pregnancy - more cautionary research (unborn son's fertility)

Yet another research paper has been published suggesting a link between paracetamol (acetaminophen) exposure during pregnancy and damage to the male reproductive system.
This study, like those done previously, involved mice but, like other similar studies, found that paracetamol interferes with testosterone production in male fetuses.  The mice in this study were given doses equivalent to the recommended dose for pregnant women.  The findings from this latest Danish study, published in "Reproduction":

"suggest that prenatal exposure to APAP [paracetamol] may impair male sexual behaviour in adulthood by disrupting the sexual neurobehavioral programming. These findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting the need to limit the widespread exposure and use of APAP by pregnant women." 
It is worrying that advice to pregnant women experiencing common musculo-skeletal problems in pregnancy or the latent phase of labour, at least in the UK, are advised to take paracetamol with no mention of its possible side-effects (see Undercover Midwife's posts of 28.3.15 and 26.5.15).

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Call to Arms from The Association of Radical Midwives

ARM, along with other birth activist individuals and groups, is campaigning for better midwifery regulation than the NMC currently gives.  This is after the long history of the NMC's maltreatment of midwives, lack of understanding of midwifery, whittling down of the Midwives' Rules & Standards, and their mischievousness or lassitude during the unnecessary and ill-advised abolition of Statutory Midwifery Supervision.  Please read this statement from ARM and get involved in any way you can - see below:

Protecting Women’s Rights with Better Midwifery Regulation
Representatives from ARM, AIMS and other key birth organisations came together to plan the next steps of the #savethemidwife campaign. The overwhelming emotion was unity; a birth movement of the 21st century, one that brings together women, midwives and birth organisations. Women’s birth rights need protecting from the ground up. Choice must be protected both within and outside of the NHS. Midwives are with woman. Midwives are the experts of normal birth and need to be the leaders of their own profession. It is vital that those who are responsible for the safety of mothers and babies actually understand the issues women face. The NMC does not do this.
Our key priorities are:
• User and Midwifery Representation
• Regulation and Legislation
• Supervision and Safety
• Communication and Engagement

The water is rippling and now we need you to turn ripples to waves. We are calling for your help. It is vital that the campaign reaches women and midwives across the UK. We have set our priorities and created a roadmap of actions to develop a campaign strategy and communications plan. Can you spare some time to take on one of these tasks? Promote the issues among your networks? Or offer a skill that will advance the campaign?
Join ARM, Campaign, Volunteer, Fundraise, Write - Because Midwifery Matters
We can only be powerful with your support. The more people we have on board, the more effective our campaign will be.
Find out more about the issues and progress so far and keep abreast of the campaign:
f: RadicalMidwives
f: ARM #savethemidwife
t: @radmidassoc

Check out the Association of Radical Midwives page on JustGiving and help the campaign by
donating or fundraising. Please pass the message to all your networks.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
Kind regards,
Katherine Hales
ARM National Coordinator