Blog for MAMA – be a MAMA Academy Ambassador

minilogoJPGIn one of my guises, I am Social Media and Fundraising Organiser for the charity MAMA Academy, a small but growing national charity committed to promoting positive pregnancies and reducing baby loss by educating both mums and midwives with antenatal information for parents and professionals.

One of the best ways for us to get our healthy pregnancy messages out there is by raising awareness on social media (which is where I come in), and the optimum way to make a campaign successful, in my experience at least, is to get parent bloggers on board. This is where you come in.

We are looking for committed bloggers to become MAMA Academy Ambassadors. We would like you to actively promote the positive pregnancy messages of the charity on your blog, by writing relevant posts and sharing them on social media. Ideally you will be blogging through a current pregnancy or trying to conceive, but we would absolutely love to involve new mums or anyone else with a passion for helping more babies arrive safely.

You will be able to display a MAMA Academy Ambassador badge on your blog, and we will back you up with regular promotion on Facebook and Twitter. Anyone can informally jump on board by mentioning MAMA Academy and using the hashtag #MyPositivePregnancy but if you want that coveted title, and the extra publicity that comes with it, we need you to be an Ambassador. We will rely on our Ambassadors to write topical posts for us to help promote certain messages but you can blog for MAMA at any time when you feel the need!

Once we have our first group of Ambassadors established, we’ll be able to showcase your blogs on our website as our valued supporters, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to be associated with us. We can’t wait to work with you.

To find out more about MAMA Academy, visit

If you’re interested in becoming a MAMA Ambassador, drop me an email at

Thanks everyone!


support where it’s needed most – for NHS England

My latest guest post for NHS England is all about the support that the voluntary sector can provide that, for many reasons, the NHS cannot. I have focused on the issue of support in pregnancy, especially in terms of pregnancy loss. The care provided by charities to bereaved parents is invaluable. However, the increased emphasis on women being educated better to have healthy pregnancies and reduce the risk of loss is a step in the right direction, and here again the voluntary organisations are leading the way.

I have recently become involved with the charity MAMA Academy, and if you’re able to, I urge you to find a cause you feel strongly about and see how you can help. Volunteers are the lifeblood of these charities which do so much to assist the NHS in providing better care for everybody. Here’s why.

Our team have recently received some training on the benefits of Patient and Public Involvement, and the role of the voluntary sector in supporting the work of the NHS. With it came a timely reminder of the NHS England employee volunteering scheme, an opportunity we have all been encouraged to take up. So why should we be working with the third sector?

I want to use an example I am familiar with to illustrate how important this external support is.

As part of the Maternity & Child Health SCN team at the Northern Clinical Networks, and as a mum who experienced a complicated pregnancy, I appreciate more than some the absolute value of support for expectant parents, at all stages of their journey. There are few occasions when this is more vital than in tragic cases of pregnancy loss.

pregnancy_lossNHS IQ published a report at the end of February entitled ‘A review of support available for loss in early and late pregnancy’. This urgently needed piece of work scoped some of the services available to women and families experiencing the loss of a baby in both the NHS and in the charitable sector – and the services are sadly in demand.

The statistics, for those who are not aware, are fairly shocking.

17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth in the UK every day, and 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Stillbirth is ten times more common in the UK than cot death. However, the societal taboo of talking about miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death openly means that many families suffer in silence, particularly if the loss was early enough that the pregnancy was not common knowledge among friends or family.

The devastation each woman feels at the loss of her baby should never be underestimated, regardless of gestation.

There is a clear need for excellent bereavement services and clinical care at the time of the loss along with ongoing support going forwards, although as the report explains, none of this is consistently provided by the NHS across the board.

There are some excellent best practice examples of bereavement care given in the NHS IQ report, but one area that NHS services sometimes struggle to adequately provide for is aftercare and ongoing support. This is where the voluntary organisations play a vital role. An awareness as NHS professionals of what third sector support is available could make all the difference to the care that is offered to those who need it.

logo_miscarriageassocCharities like SANDS and the Miscarriage Association offer peer support unlike anything provided by the NHS, giving women a ‘safe space’ to share their experiences with others who understand their feelings. The growing number of online forums provided by charities, such as via their Facebook pages, shows the role of social media in enabling families to find support as they want it, whenever they need it.

To give you an idea of the scale of demand, the Miscarriage Association website has around 50,000 hits every month, and they deal with around 6,000 phone calls and emails every year. The trusted and reliable advice provided by voluntary organisations responds to parents’ needs in a different way than the statutory services can provide, on both an emotional and practical level.

Of course the ideal scenario is that the loss never occurs in the first place, and this is where charities are playing an increasingly large part – that of raising awareness of healthy pregnancies. There are several local and national charities working to reduce incidence of baby loss by educating expectant mums on how to keep themselves healthy with diet, exercise, and other recommendations, along with the ‘warning signs’ to watch out for that something might not be right with their baby.

This approach is aligned with the general principles of NHS antenatal care, but through the charities information is made available to women in a much more accessible way, through websites and social media, and in a friendlier, more approachable fashion that women respond to.

tommysTommy’s, one charity which I have previously fundraised for, ran a campaign last year to encourage pregnant women to be more active, and also operate a pregnancy support helpline staffed by midwives to offer advice when women feel they need it. They also fund vital research into the causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, which has obvious benefits and implications both for pregnancy outcomes and NHS resources.

I have recently taken up my first official volunteering position with a charity called MAMA Academy, which aims to educate pregnant women about health in pregnancy in an effort to reduce baby loss. The unique benefit of MAMA Academy though is that they also appreciate the importance of the role of the midwife in providing excellent maternity care, and work together with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to provide consistent information to professionals to raise overall standards of care. It’s a real multidisciplinary approach to improving pregnancy outcomes.

This kind of collaborative working is the key to success when it comes to the NHS and the voluntary sector, and not just in maternity care. We don’t just need to involve them; we need to see them as integral members of our wider health and social care team. Much as we would like to, the NHS is not currently in a position to offer the comprehensive services some people need – but there are organisations out there which can fill in the missing pieces. We just have to know where they are and how they can help.

And if you’re feeling the urge to make a difference yourself, there are plenty of charities or groups who would appreciate your support. Trust me, it’s well worth it.


Find out more about MAMA Academy on our website, or follow us on Twitter @MAMAAcademy


make milk, not war

The media were up in arms last week, as the story broke that 27 year old Emily Slough had dared to breastfeed her eight month old daughter Matilda in a public place in the middle of Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Not that this would normally have made the national news – on this occasion it became a huge story as an unnamed member of the public was quick enough to take an unsolicited picture of Emily and her daughter from across the street, then thoughtfully posted it on a Facebook page, accused Ms Slough of  ‘letting your kid feast on your nipple’, and labelled her a ‘tramp’.

breastfeeding at monument

Breastfeeding mums joining the protest at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle City Centre

Cue the predictable social media storm which inevitably follows any stupid thing anyone does online these days. Within a few short days, mass protests were taking place around the country as mums publicly breastfed their babies in force to support the rights of breastfeeding mothers everywhere – the right to feed their baby anywhere without prejudice, ridicule or humiliation.

This shouldn’t still be necessary. But even in these relatively relaxed times where most public establishments would state that they are happy to allow breastfeeding on their premises, there is still the feeling that some would really prefer you to do it elsewhere, lest you send the other customers running in horror from the small person having lunch. Organisations may be more accepting of the practice, but there are still plenty of individuals who feel inexplicably queasy at the whole idea of nature’s nutrition, and would rather you feed your baby in the toilets, or just never leave the house, so that they don’t have to see your depraved act for themselves. The attitude of our Facebook-posting friend will not be an isolated one.

When it comes to breastfeeding, which seems to be constantly shrouded in a cloud of controversy anyway, mums are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

Women are told from the second their pregnancy test shows positive that breast is best, and that breast milk alone is all that your baby could possibly want and need. Filled with the perfect combination of nutrients and packed with immunity-building antibodies, any other option would be akin to feeding your newborn with a bottle of Coca-Cola. Who would possibly consider a synthetic, man-made alternative?

Well, I would, actually. Because it should be my choice. And a lot of women don’t actually feel like they have one.

Mother breastfeeding babyBreastfeeding is a wonderful ideal, but not something all women find easy or appealing – a viewpoint that breastfeeding advocates find difficult to understand. If breastfeeding was that simple, there would be no need for community peer support groups, or infant feeding coordinators, or specialist hospital nursery nurses to help new mums get the hang of this apparently most natural of practices.

Midwives and maternity services do their utmost to promote breastfeeding as the best and healthiest option for babies, and they rightly should as there are undeniable benefits to it, particularly very early on, but this should be done sensitively in such a way as to provide alternative options to women and allow them to make a personal choice they are happy with, and more importantly, not to punish themselves if they find breastfeeding too hard. An unsatisfied baby and a stressed out, worried mummy do not make for a good combination.

It breaks my heart when I read stories and comments from mums who feel they have somehow failed their baby by not succeeding at breastfeeding; that they have not been able to provide the best for them; that they are being negatively judged by breastfeeding mums for relying on formula instead of what nature intended. However bad breastfeeding women have been made to feel by not being accepted in a public place, or by the odd disapproving look of an onlooker, imagine how it feels for those mums pulling a bottle filled with formula out of the changing bag – somehow appearing more acceptable to passers-by, but being maligned and judged by their peers, and racked with guilt that they have gone against the advice of their maternity care providers in not giving their baby the best they could.

joe hospital

Me and Joe on the postnatal ward back in 2010

I tried to breastfeed; I intended to – but I just couldn’t make it work. With a new baby born at 37 weeks, and only a few grams over the threshold for low birthweight thanks to the growth restricting effects of pre-eclampsia, I was feeding my son on a hospital postnatal ward for four days after he was born. Like clockwork, every three hours, day and night, I was woken by the nursery nurse who would help me get him attached, and would leave him to have his fill. He was also supplemented with ready-made formula after every feed to ensure he was getting enough nutrition as he was so small.

I was given an electric breast pump on the ward to try and encourage my milk flow, but I found it difficult to use, noisy and hugely uncomfortable. I was worn out after a traumatic delivery and sore enough already without feeling like a cow attached to a milking machine. I couldn’t use it.

Once at home, I persisted with breastfeeding but Joe just never seemed satisfied with it. His weight had dropped and we had a real concern he wasn’t feeding enough. He would suckle contentedly but would cry with hunger just a short time later and we were convinced something was wrong. Almost in desperation, we gave him a little bottle of the formula he had been given in the hospital that we had brought home with us. He drained it dry and slept like the proverbial baby.

From that moment on, he was formula-fed; I continued to put him to the breast every day up to about six months of age, but it was for comfort more than anything else, both his and mine. I loved the closeness it brought, it eased some of the guilt, but knew I wasn’t giving him much. He needed his bottles. And in the face of everything we are told about the pitfalls of formula, he thrived. He put on weight steadily and at three and a half is now a healthy height and weight, and is an intelligent and lively boy who is rarely ill. Not bad considering I couldn’t give him ‘the best’.

bottle feedingThe very formula brand that satisfied my son so well has to advertise its own product on TV with the disclaimer that ‘breast milk is the best food for your baby, and nothing compares to it’. No other type of product has to tell its potential customers that they are the second best option available. But this is how formula feeding mums are made to feel. Letting the side down. Settling for the mediocre. Not concerned with the wellbeing of their child. This is neither fair nor right.

From a purely scientific perspective, the huge amount of sometimes questionable research into breastfeeding available on the Internet cannot conclusively prove all of the lauded benefits and there are a couple of interesting articles here and here among others that cast doubt on whether some of the claimed good effects can be attributed to breastfeeding alone.

Ultimately mums are damned by the moronic individuals in society who think breastfeeding is something which should be conducted behind closed doors and damned by the judgmental attitudes of those who think formula feeding is something to be ashamed of. Is the latter viewpoint really much better than the first? Being holier than thou about infant feeding is in my opinion just as bad as being ignorant about it.

It is not up to me how other women choose to feed their baby, or indeed how they have to. It is none of my concern. No mum should feel guilty, or judged, or have to put up with the disapproving stares of others, regardless of whether her baby has a nipple or a bottle in its mouth. Mums need support and acceptance as they find their way with their little one – and if members of wider society won’t provide this, we need to help each other, not turn on each other.

At the end of the day, love, not milk, is the most important nutrient of all.


the wisdom of children 4

Driving home from nursery on a bright early Spring evening, slightly blinded by the setting sun, the familiar excitable voice pipes up from the back of the car.

“Look at that beautiful sun Mummy! The sky is orange! I love the suns.”

“It is beautiful isn’t it? There is only one sun though, Little Man.”

“What do you mean?”

Oh dear. Fortunately I’ve watched enough Stargazing Live to at least be able to explain basic astronomy.

“Well, the sun is up in space, and the planet we live on, Earth, spins around and around it. And the moon spins around the Earth.”

“But the sun isn’t in space! The moon is in space but the sun isn’t in space.”

Joe was growing quite indignant at this point, as if I was somehow trying to mislead him.

“What do you mean, Little Man?”

“The sun is there in the morning. It’s not in space. It’s night-time in space.”

“Aaaah….” The penny dropped.

“Do you mean that the sun can’t be in space because it’s dark in space?”

“Yes! The sun is there in the daytime, not night-time Mummy.”

I hadn’t watched enough Stargazing to explain away his perfectly sound three-year-old’s argument.

Yet again I came away from a conversation with my son feeling like the stupid one.

I wonder if Professor Brian Cox’s mum ever felt like that.


and the nominations are…

As a relatively new addition to the parent blogging world, the chance to be included in such an illustrious competition as the MAD Blog Awards after only six months of sharing  my ramblings is quite exciting. Fortunately the Best New Blog category is tailor made for newbies like me – it’s an opportunity to stick our heads over the parapet and wave our ‘New Blogger’ flags around in the hope that the seasoned writers in the big shiny castle on the hill will notice us and send some supplies.

However, being so concerned with developing my own fledgling blog, whilst juggling a full time job and a three year old (sometimes literally), I often don’t find the time to sit and read the brilliant work of others, and I think I’ve reached the stage now where I’ve realised that isn’t right. Why should I expect others to read my latest post if I’m not going to return the favour?

inspiredmeAll of which is why making my nominations for the MAD Blog Awards was such a rewarding process. It has given me the impetus to actually click on a few links and visit some blogs, some of which I was already following the writers on Twitter but had never taken the time to visit their site – for shame!

After nominating myself for Best New Blog (don’t blame me for getting my flag out), I deliberated for quite some time about who else to choose, and ultimately came up with the following list. I urge you to check out every single one – it’s the very least they deserve.

Best Pregnancy Blog - Me The Man And The Baby

A whole new discovery for me – despite having seen Emma’s blog shared around frequently on Twitter. I’m definitely late to the party as Emma has just blogged about the birth of her third child! Looking forward to catching up.

Best Baby Blog – Two Boys One Mum

Feeling a new blogger affinity with Amy, and I’m already finding her to be a hilarious read as she blogs about having ‘two under two’. Braver than I am.

Best Blog Writer – Premmeditations

Mrboosmum writes a powerful blog about life as a parent of a premature baby, now growing up with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, showing how wonderful all our children are by sharing stories of her very special little boy.

Best Blog Photography – Dear Beautiful

Lucy has a gorgeous looking blog filled with stunning photos of her two beautiful little children, and writes lovely words to accompany them. Well worth a look – especially if you tend to only use the camera on your phone then rely on Instagram to make fancy looking pics.

Best Family Travel Blog – North East Family Fun

For a travel blog, I had to go local! Join the family on their travels and adventures around the fabulous North East of England and beyond. Mixing days out, restaurant reviews and holiday destination tips with lovely pics of the kids enjoying themselves, if you’re in need of some school holiday ideas, this is the place to go.

Best Family Fun Blog – Ghostwriter Mummy

I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for the wonderful Susanne, aka Ghostwriter Mummy. A tireless charitable campaigner, awareness raiser of birth trauma, and hugely talented writer, I could have easily nominated her in more than one category. Her heartfelt posts have brought a tear to my eye on several occasions. But I chose to vote for her in ‘Family Fun’ – as a champion of learning through messy and sensory play, and with her background as a teacher, Susanne has consistently shown how play can be both fun and educational. Inspiring stuff for parents of energetic preschoolers!

Best School Days Blog – Actually Mummy

Helen of Actually Mummy sits in one of the highest towers of the experienced parent bloggers’ castle. Already an award-winner, Helen blogs about life with her 9 year old daughter and 6 year old son – who sometimes contribute posts of their own! Both well-respected and funny, Helen will be a popular nominee I’m sure.

Best Craft Blog – Space for the Butterflies

Not being particularly crafty myself, having neither the time nor the patience for anything taking more than 5 minutes to put together, I was impressed by the lovely work done by Carie, a talented knitter, which she shares on her blog Space for the Butterflies. With two cute little girls and a third baby on the way, demand for her hand-knitted children’s clothes is not likely to dry up anytime soon.

Best Food Blog – Grubby Little Faces

Clare is a mum of a 6 year old and 2 year old twins, so could be forgiven for putting in a bit less effort in the kitchen and relying on beans on toast a little too often. Far from it in fact. Clare is passionate about good home cooking, and sharing it with her children to foster a real appreciation of the food they eat is of great importance to her. Her blog is filled with yummy and, crucially, easy meal ideas for busy families. What are you having for dinner tonight?

Best Homes & Interiors Blog – Capture by Lucy

Lucy is more than a dab hand with a camera, and her blog features stunning photography of interiors ideas, crafts, food and more, all beautifully presented. Her talent makes me feel frankly inadequate.

Most Innovative Blog – Science Sparks

Science Sparks is the quite brilliant creation of Emma Vanstone and the tragically late Kerry Farrow. Emma continues to write the fun and innovative blog that provides science activity ideas for young children, to teach them about biology, chemistry and physics using everyday items for simple experiments. I haven’t visited the site nearly enough, and certainly will do more from now on.

Best Thrifty Blog – Slummy Single Mummy

Jo’s blog is a brilliant mix of parenting, reviews and short rants about life’s various irritants. Her posts will not only give you some great consumer tips, her pro-blogger status also makes her an authority on making money from your own blog, something I’m sure most of us wouldn’t say no to.

Most Entertaining Blog – Wry Mummy

A fellow new blogger, Wry Mummy Jess is hilarious to the point of making me have to suppress a laugh-snort whilst reading her blog on my lunch break in the office. Read and enjoy – just not in polite company.

And finally…

PrintBlog of the Year – Edspire

There was no other option, in my opinion. Over the last 12 months Jennie has written the most compelling posts, with the most beautiful photographs, with the most touching sentiment, with the darkest of rainclouds hanging over her the whole time. The little legacy of Matilda Mae, the wonder of seeing twins Esther and William grow and play, and the glimmer of light in the form of a precious rainbow baby have drawn me back to Jennie’s blog time and again, and will continue to do so. It is a real tragedy that only the loss of Baby Tilda brought Edspire to my attention, as Jennie deserves every ounce of recognition for her writing talent alone. She would be a truly worthy recipient of this award.

And so there we are. My nominations for the MAD Blog Awards. The brilliance of these awards, as I have written in a previous post, is the sheer diversity of blogs being included, each one individual and appealing to different readers. These are just a handful of the blogs I admire. To name but a few more I could easily have nominated but simply ran out of categories:

Alison Bloomer picComplicated Gorgeousness – beautifully written and often funny blog by the lovely Alison about parenting and raising a child with additional needs – her wonderful son Gabriel. Alison wrote a #BloggingForChange guest post for me recently.

Life As A Widower – heartbreaking blog of Ben, a father living with the grief of losing his wife in tragic circumstances and raising their young son. Powerful and inspiring.

38 Line Poem – Rick blogs about raising his son Isaac, who was born prematurely and now lives with cerebral palsy, and has ongoing complex care requirements. Rick writes about the care his son receives in the NHS, notably surrounding the ’6Cs’ Compassion in Practice initiative, and has recently spoken at the NHS Innovation Expo about his experiences.

Not Even A Bag Of Sugar – Written by the wonderful and tireless Kylie, Not Even A… started out as a means of recovering from her experience of having a very premature baby at 27 weeks in 2009 following pre-eclampsia (a condition I am more than familiar with!). As baby Joseph has grown, the blog has continued, and is a great source of advice and support for families in similar situations. Kylie does a lot of charity work and awareness raising and I have a huge amount of respect for her.

I could go on. But I should stop somewhere.

Nominating in the MAD Blog Awards has truly opened my eyes to the world of blogging I now live in. I’m definitely going to walk around the neighbourhood a bit more often.

Nominate here until 14th March

MADS nominate

reaching for the summit: the legacy of NHS Change Day – for NHS England

My new post for NHS England celebrates NHS Change Day and the NHS Innovation Expo – a real opportunity for those of us passionate about the NHS to make a change for the better. Thanks to all those who have contributed to and supported #BloggingForChange – a pledge I have committed to so don’t expect it to stop here!

I love our NHS and the many wonderful people who work within it who deserve recognition, several of whom I have had the great pleasure of getting to know. I know I am not alone in wanting us to do more for our patients and for each other. Long may the spirit of Change Day continue.

logo-inno-expoThe buzz surrounding NHS Change Day is reaching fever pitch. With the big day taking place on Monday 3rd March, coinciding with the start of the NHS Innovation Expo in Manchester, my Twitter timeline is awash with pledges, calls to action and encouragement to get involved.

The number of pledges being made has shot up in just the last couple of weeks as the Change Day snowball has gathered speed, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the momentum of it all. A real sense of positivity exudes from every Tweet, every post, and every pledge.

The current total at time of writing this stands at around 297,000 pledges – already above last year’s total of 189,000 and well on our way to this year’s target of 500,000. Quite simply, a phenomenal number of people are taking the initiative to make a change for the better, and the already fantastic total is rising all the time.

Hospitals have been collecting pledges in receptions, wards, and staff canteens; offices have set up pledge trees (including mine!); and Change Day champions in community-based organisations and universities have been hard at work collecting pledges from students, patients and the public in whatever way they can. With just a few people taking the initiative, pledges are being uploaded en masse from large organisations, capturing the spirit of Change Day and spreading the word far and wide.

My colleagues at the Northern Clinical Networks and Senate have been busy adding their leaves to our office pledge tree, and I have added each one to the Change Day website. Some members of our team are undertaking community volunteering on 3rd March as part of their pledges, helping out in local hospices by decorating, tidying and doing general odd jobs as required!

NHS_Change_Day_logoNot being a ‘frontline’ service, but working to make improvements for patients, our team at the Clinical Networks feel it is important to understand the patients’ perspective and to consider their needs as we carry out our work. This pledge from my colleague Toni Hunt, a Network Delivery Lead, sums up this ethos perfectly: “To ensure that patients are at the forefront of my mind when taking projects forward”. I will certainly sign up to that one.

Sometimes the best people to ensure patients are at the forefront of our minds are the patients themselves, and the groups and third sector organisations that represent them. There have been some fabulous pledges from charities and other organisations outside the NHS, committing to support us in our roles.

Helen Clarke of Carers UK has pledged “to help NHS England staff and services understand their role in identifying, supporting and signposting carers to support”. We should not forget the wonderful and indispensable role carers play for our patients, and they certainly need looking after too.

The charity Parkinson’s UK is asking all NHS staff who work with people with Parkinson’s to make the following pledge: “I pledge to ask my patients with Parkinson’s what one thing I can do today to help them take control – and make it happen”. For patients who feel vulnerable and not in control of what is happening to them, the simple act of giving them a choice and asking their opinion can make a huge difference.

Monkey logoHelen Sadler of Monkey Wellbeing, who created the loveable character of Monkey to help her daughter as she underwent extensive hospital treatment as a toddler, has made a pledge on behalf of her cuddly friend: “Monkey promises to support children and their families as they face hospital procedures. Preparation is the key”. The range of fun picture books and other resources featuring Monkey, now being widely used by children’s hospitals to help prepare little ones for frightening hospital visits, shows the effectiveness of understanding the needs of young patients.

As Change Day comes and goes, there is a very real sense that the initiatives and promises being acted upon now will continue into the future, for the long term benefit of NHS staff and patients alike. In what is undeniably a tough climate for those of us working to make improvements in the health service, the spirit of collaboration and the resolve to do things better is a sure sign that NHS staff are not ready to roll over and give up just yet. And we don’t plan to.

With the valued support of third sector organisations, the increasing involvement of patients themselves, and the renewed determination of staff to no longer accept things the way they are, we could be entering a bright new age for the NHS. There may be a veritable mountain to climb in some respects, but each successful ascent starts with a first step and a strong team to make it happen.

See you all at the top.


It’s not too late to make your Change Day pledge! Do it now

Read more about Helen Sadler and Monkey in her #BloggingForChange guest post 

tea and toast: don’t feed the fears of childbirth

Save the Children UK have launched an admirable and worthy campaign to help end the unnecessary deaths of newborn babies around the world. An unacceptably tragic 1 million babies a year don’t live past their first day of life, with nearly 3 million not living to see their second month. save the children

Save the Children’s Chris Mosler has written brilliantly about the First Day campaign on her blog Thinly Spread, which I urge you to read and help if you can.

The majority of these deaths would be preventable, if the mother and her newborn were attended by a health professional, namely a midwife, at the birth. Lack of access to basic medical supplies, antiseptics, antibiotics, a clean environment, intervention when required – all of the things we take for granted in the UK – make giving birth in developing countries a frightening and unpredictable experience, with mothers often having their babies in traumatic circumstances with little or no support, not even knowing if they will survive.

How lucky we are, I thought, that we don’t have to worry about such things here. From the luxury of our NHS maternity bed, with all modern techniques and equipment at our disposal; midwives or obstetric consultants at our beck and call; in a safe, clean, well-equipped hospital ward or state of the art birthing centre – what could possibly go wrong?

Frightening? Unpredictable? Traumatic? These are not words we would use to describe giving birth in this country.

Are they?

According to blogger Feminist Mum, sadly among others, they are. Her brutally honest post about the very real fear too many mums in the UK have about giving birth highlights some uncomfortable truths.

NHSThe medical advances which supposedly make our maternity services so much safer, actually seem to be contributing to the traumatic experiences of some mothers, with upsetting memories of an assisted delivery or unwanted intervention casting a shadow over future pregnancies, or even putting them off having any more children at all. Leaving hospital with a healthy baby does not necessarily mean the experience of care was good; that the woman was wholly supported by an attentive midwife; that she was given choices about what happened in the delivery room; that she felt respected and treated with dignity.

And in some tragic circumstances, the highly trained consultant will not make the right decision; the overstretched midwife will not recognise a complication; the desperately needed ambulance transfer won’t make it in time. Even with all our relative luxuries, too many babies don’t see their first day in this country, never mind in the poorest places of the world.

Sadly, this is a fact of life, and placing the blame for every pregnancy loss and neonatal death squarely at the feet of the maternity provider is neither accurate nor helpful. The insistence of some sections of the media, however, to report every terrible story of hospital negligence (which does happen, we should not deny) as the norm in today’s maternity services is only fuelling the fire of fear burning under the expectant mums in their care. Even the language used with the best of intentions in the antenatal setting can lay the groundwork for an anxious pregnancy – ‘high-risk’, ‘complications’, ‘interventions’ – potentially decreasing the likelihood of a ‘normal’ birth.

fearFear plants the seeds of doubt in the woman’s mind that maybe the midwifery-led unit wouldn’t be the best choice after all; what if something goes wrong; maybe she should go to the hospital; something doesn’t feel right; she’d rather see a doctor; she’d rather have an epidural; is a caesarean really necessary? Does she have a choice in the matter?

Of course there is a necessity for medical intervention in many pregnancies with very good reasons – I was induced early due to pre-eclampsia myself and I thank the midwife who spotted my high blood pressure and the team who ensured the safe delivery of my son from the very bottom of my heart. But such an experience should not have to mean that I am terrified to fall pregnant again for fear of another complication. I have the midwives who attended me to thank for the fact I would have confidence in them again. When maternity care is done right, we provide amongst the best in the world.

But where women have had negative experiences within the NHS, we need to know, so that as an organisation we can move towards making the necessary changes to ensure safe and positive experiences for all parents and their precious babies. Better training, more midwives, quality control and accountability, compassionate care – none of which are insurmountable and should be recognised as necessary to protect women at their most vulnerable.

But before the big changes, come the little ones. Sometimes all it takes for a traumatic experience to become a positive one is a kind midwife bringing tea and toast, and five minutes of her time to listen to you. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to hold your hand. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to tell you not to be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.


Make a change now and pledge for NHS Change Day


Nominate me in the MAD Blog Awards 2014

(Best New Blog, Best Blog Writer, Blog of the Year)

MADS nominate