Birth is a miraculous thing, because it's one of few things that every single thing on this earth has in common, but I'll narrow it down to humans for now. 😉

Even if you are a man who decides to never give birth or have children with a partner, you have been birthed. So here it impacts us ALL. Not just the process of birth, but the gross appropriation of what once was a natural process, revered as sacred and to be respected. Birth is now managed by a highly medicalised institution that results in high proportions of trauma for both mother and baby.

What happened? Well, like most things, man wanted to know how something works and if they could make it "better." As if the natural workings of mother nature didn't have it all sussed out already. Birth was taken by the patriarchy, from midwives to male gynaecologists.

All knowledge of it was diluted, lost. We started to see the interventions cause pain and death, but then blamed birth as risky, instead of those that managed birth as causing risk. And so here we are, in a culture where we're so far removed from the process that most of us know nothing of it until we become pregnant ourselves, and in many cases we venture down this road towards labour with fear. Fear of pain, fear of things going wrong, fear of death.

We write birth plans that help educated us somewhat, but even then it's to inform our body and mind of pain and risk we may need to prepare for. Managed third stage or natural? Episiotomy or natural tear? Drugs or hypobirthing?...

Systems don't give up control, The patriarchy won't relinquish its control. Men and women and all non-binary, we have to do this TOGETHER. Because even though maternity care is literally "of the mother," it is not just a mother issue to be pushed aside, so that we're reliant on the traumatised person to push a written complaint through to a system that will just continue to ignore it.

We need to change the conversation from MORE STAFF to MORE EDUCATION! We don't need to keep recycling stories of risk and trauma to women every time they become pregnant, but instead support them with education. We need to begin disseminated down to the children, what our bodies are capable of and stop being embarrassed to discuss it. Birth unites us all and stripping people of this knowledge and connection keeps us further disconnected and makes it harder to stand up for a unified cause that can alter the state of society for the better. Changing birth culture from medicalised and traumatising to responsive and healing can positively alter the entire state of humanity.

But as long as this conversation stays amongst the proportion of people that birth, and even smaller population of people that have been traumatised but found healing to come forward and fight, society will continue to ignore it. As Desmond Tutu said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in.” and we need to change it.

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Can a system designed around support for the masses offer truly individualised care?

To pick apart this question we have to start with one fundamental characteristic of any large system. Guidelines.

When you develop a system to support thousands of women and their babies annually, you need to be able to put some guidelines into place so that the people caring for the users know how to respond when various aspects of their care stray from a predetermined concept of normal. Normal...there’s that word. What exactly is normal?

In all the years I’ve been supporting women, I’ve been listening to birth stories, I’ve been listening to feeding stories and I can honestly say, not a single experience was like another. These stories may have had similarities, but the factors within their stories varied so much that the possible avenues of care were endless. It’s actually why I like doing what I do, because every family I visit with, and talk to, will push me to think of all the different factors and pathways to explore for their particular scenario. Let’s look at just a few of the guidelines around what we perceive as normal and what determines the systematic care pathways for our birth and breastfeeding journeys.

  • a cervix dilates half a cm in an hour, taking longer could be determined as failure to progress

  • if your waters go and labour doesn’t commence within 24/48 hours (depending on area) then mother should be induced

  • a mother who has reached 41 weeks should be booked for induction

  • preventative antibiotics are given to babies in many situations, including Group Strep B and assisted deliveries

  • a baby that loses more than 10% of its birth weight will be put on a top up feeding plan

  • at 10cm dilation a mother is encouraged and guided to push her baby out

How do these guidelines sound to you? Some may strike you as odd, whereas some may seem like valid reasons to route a mother down a specific care plan. What is the evidence for these guidelines and should they determine how women are moved through the system?

Let’s take a very common scenario that affects about a third of the UK birthing population, the post dates induction. One mother at 41 weeks may respond well to a chemical induction for post dates and deliver her baby within hours of labour commencing. She may also then go on to initiate breastfeeding without any major concerns and have a positive experience all around. Another mother may also undergo chemical induction that results in very slow dilation of the cervix despite extremely painful contractions. Her baby may become distressed, resulting in a cascade of interventions, and a traumatic assisted delivery of baby, who then struggles to latch at the breast. Which of these women is normal? Could we safely say that the mother who didn’t respond to the chemical induction was abnormal, if the guidelines assume that the average woman should be induced post dates? If we look at the mother who would be labelled as having a “failed induction,” is it possible that her dates were off, or that her baby and body weren’t ready and they just needed another week or two (or more) to begin the process of birth? Did we look at either of these mothers as individuals and consider whether there was a need for the induction? Were there medical reasons causing a concern over the baby, or was it just a guideline that baby’s gestation was 41 weeks and so induction was being offered to minimise the (less than half a percent) risk of stillbirth. When we’re looking at a national induction rate of around 20-30%, many of which are down to post dates, then we have to look at whether we’re considering the individual that we are caring for, or whether we are making a blanket decision based on guidelines framed for an “average” person/birth scenario. And this then brings me to whether a statistic like .3% still birth rate is worth inducing 20% of women over, when it is likely that this will then give you more than a .3% risk of negative birth experiences, including PTSD and PPD. Are we sitting women down and informing them of the risks of still birth, with facts, and then informing them of the risks of induction? When induction isn’t going to plan and the mother isn’t labouring as planned, are we then observing her at each stage and discussing her options at each stage so that she can make an informed decision about what she’d like to do next? Are we having these conversations? Are we even able to have these conversations? Is it possible for a system that is already stretched thin, both in resources and funding, to assess everyone as an individual? Is there room to incorporate women into the decision making conversations and alter their care pathways to suit their individuality? There’s that question again, “Can a system designed around support for the masses offer truly individualised care?” Do you know what I think? NO. Not where we’re at now. Not when we don’t have continuity of care, not when language used still only serves to coerce a mother down a certain path. Not when so many guidelines still aren’t evidence based and undermine the unique nature of every birthing woman.

Systems for the masses cannot serve the individual.

Women need to take control of their care. They need to know their options in advance, they need to go into birth educated about likelihoods and risks and ready to push conversations with professionals. They need to have birthing partners and doulas who are also well informed and there to support the individual birthing her baby in a system designed around a patriarchal ideal. Because when a woman is a statistical norm framed by a guideline, she will inevitably end up travelling a care plan designed for someone else.

Image credit: Robin Fellows-Weir, Photographer and Filmmaker Email:

Instagram: @robinfwphotography

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Updated: Jan 13, 2021

In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, I have to admit I've not been too badly impacted by things, because I mainly work in isolation going in and out of parent's homes on my own. Global illness aside, breastfeeding support is still in high demand, and the need to feed babies a diet of breastmilk is even more crucial when illness is on the rise. However, my volunteer peer support projects, which run groups have had a hit to attendance and speaking to others who run group support sessions, they've all seen a dramatic decline in attendance. Some groups have taken the decision to temporarily halt group session, while opting for telephone and online support. This has really had me thinking a lot over the last few days about what sort of impact this will have on the well-being of an already fairly isolated and minimally supported population of people. As I said, I am regularly invited into homes to sit with a family and talk with them through their struggles around parenting and breastfeeding. Over the course of a couple of hours we will go through plans for how to positively move forward to get them to a point of reaching their feeding goals. This can have a huge impact to the direction of the feeding journey, but it is only one element determining the success of the parenting journey. What I often tell parents when we make plans is that they would benefit from going out to groups, finding a social network that they can lean on a bit when things are seeming difficult; a group they can message at 2 am for an empathy moan, or go out for a cuppa with to get through what would otherwise be a lonely day without adult conversation. On days when everything feels like an uphill battle and baby is grizzling at everything, just getting out can make all the difference to our sanity. I can offer factual support, informative resources and knowledge for how to move a breastfeeding journey forward towards a desired goal, and I'm always happy to offer emotional support via text on a wobbly day, but there is something very different about the mothering/parenting network built with other parents in a similar place to you. Mothering in today's world can be a very isolating activity at the best of times. Depending on your location, social events and baby groups can be minimal or nonexistent; breastfeeding support can follow in a similar vein. In most cases a mother in a partnership, residing in Britain, has about two weeks of support from her partner before she is left to parent on her own for about eight hours a day; some days in extreme isolation. There is sometimes an option to enroll in a term or two of an activity, like baby massage, swimming, or yoga. This can be the highlight of the week, the thing to look forward to on a weekly basis. Sadly, though, at the moment we are seeing that even these groups are being temporarily halted as a precaution to keep mothers and babies from contracting the coronavirus, but also because the cost of running a group for a potentially empty room can be too much for a self-employed person to maintain. So I come then to my current train of thought where I'm pondering the risks to the well-being of the mother and her postpartum journey when she's being advised to self isolate, or when her resources in the community are being closed. Are we at risk of isolating an already very isolated population of people? We already know that the regular level of isolation felt by mothers can have detrimental effects to their mental and emotional well-being. Processing birth and the new role and intensity of mothering can require us to talk through our thoughts and emotions, something we can't do when we are spending day after day in a quiet house changing nappies and feeding babies. What about the mother that needs their local breastfeeding support group to be able to access face to face help with latching and friendly peer support from other mothers assuring them that they also have/had the same struggles.

I know some professionals that have cut groups are opting for online groups using video calling. Some are offering live streams of their instructional courses, others are offering one to one video calling and telephone support, all of which are wonderful options for parents that are looking for the practical support. My professional opinion, though, is that the current panic around contracting an illness, that as of yet does not seem to have evidence to show it is deadly to the healthy population, panic that is resulting in national outcry to self isolate and take extra precautions to not interact too closely with others, could leave many new mothers struggling to develop crucial parenting networks, and access necessary support to be able to positively develop in their mothering role, not just in the short term, but for the long run, as well. Is there any way around this? Are we being too quick to pull back on these group sessions? By cancelling groups are we re-instilling a feeling of panic? We only have to look at toilet roll shortages and hand-wash shortages to see that somethings are self perpetuating. Is there a way that we can give parents the facts around the illness and immunity and allow them the option to make that informed decision for themselves as to whether they should or shouldn't attend a group before it is withdrawn as an option all together? I'd be interested to know your thoughts on what has been labelled a"pandemic" and whether the risk to you of attending a group is greater than the benefit or whether the benefit would feel more than the risk?

#covid19 #coronavirus #breastfeeding #immunity #illness #BreastfeedingGroups #SupportGroups #NewMum #NewMom #PostNatalSupport #PostNatal #PostPartum #PostPartumSupport #4thTrimester #FourthTrimester #MentalHealth #PPD #PostPartumDepression #Depression #BabyBlues