If you follow our Maternity Matters Facebook page and Twitter feed, you may have seen our support for the Mumsnet campaign #BetterPostNatalCare– After Care Not After Thought. Guys, this really is very important. Mumsnet carried out a survey which revealed so many women are suffering poor care during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Women are being left alone, scared and exhausted. Women are being denied pain relief. Women are being neglected. We need #BetterPostNatalCare and we need it now!
Those first few hours after birth are often referred to as the golden hours. That precious time where you politely ask all maternity staff to leave you and your baby alone, so that you can bond. So that you can introduce your baby to the world in a peaceful, calm manner. So that you can be a family unit at your own pace. But for many women, these so called golden hours just do not exist. Women are prodded, poked, and pulled. They are not allowed to revel in the birth of their baby because they are in so much pain. They are not allowed to calmly welcome their baby into the world because they are anxious, scared and frightened. They are not allowed to enjoy the first hours of motherhood because they are confused and afraid to question hospital policies.
And so what happens to these women? These women who experience such a rough entry into motherhood (and this is not even taking into account what her pregnancy or birth experience has been) must surely deserve some special attention, some help to transition into the next phase of their lives with compassion, kindness and care, right? Sadly, not all women get this. Postnatal wards have become lonely and terrifying places for some women, right when they need a little TLC. Right when their future as mothers depends on it. Right when maternity staff are needed.
Many women who experienced sub standard postnatal care report that this directly impacted on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Let’s just think about this. Last December I attended an event at The House of Commons which focused on the importance of addressing maternal mental health during pregnancy and beyond. We heard from the amazing Dr Alain Gregoire, chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, who told us in no uncertain terms that the number one cause of maternal death in the UK is suicide. Suicide! Women are being failed to the point where they are taking their own lives. We cannot surely turn a blind eye any longer, and we cannot deny the fact that what happens to women in the hours directly after she gives birth has a huge impact on how she embarks upon the journey of motherhood.
Pregnancy is a tumultuous time, and there are so many changes occurring both physically and emotionally for women. Giving birth can be somewhat of a rollercoaster too, and when the whole thing is over there is a massive life changing shift that happens for women and their families. This time is crucial. This is the time where women need to be supported (and that goes for women who are giving birth to their second, third, fourth child too) and cared for by highly qualified staff. This is the time where women need care and compassion. This is the time where women need better post natal care.
We are supporting the Mumsnet campaign because we are passionate about empowering, supporting and inspiring women. If we can get a woman’s entry into motherhood right, we can continue to support her through her journey and help her to become a confident and assured parent. There are always going to be bumps along the way, and there are always going to be times where we cannot always get things right. This is not about blaming health care professionals – this is about supporting them to enforce the changes that they need in order to do their jobs well. Our midwives, doctors and health care workers are essential pieces of the jigsaw here, and they need better work conditions in order to take help women who pass through their care. Changes are needed, and they’re needed now.
Please help us in our bid to inspire changes to the levels of postnatal care in the UK. Share your stories with us, tweet using the #BetterPostnatalCare hashtag, and above all please do not stop fighting for change. Our daughters are relying on us to get this right.