March 8th is International Women's Day and this year they are asking you to #beboldforchange! For me this means a Save Motherhood Movement.
In the year 2017, when we are supposedly the most advanced in our societal evolution and equality reforms, why do we need a Save Motherhood Movement? Let me explain:
There has been a steady decline in maternity services to new mums -
- In 2012 there 128,996 more births than the service was designed to cope with
- However, maternity services are being cut by 40% year on year over the past 3 years
There is a significant increase in premature births:
- Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth (and this number is rising). In the UK, around 80,000 babies are born prematurely each year needing specialist hospital care. This is 1 in 9 babies.
I believe one reason for this is the increased levels of stress pregnant woman are placed under compared to previous decades. Maternal stress during pregnancy has been proven to have a direct effect on the unborn baby's brain development and the increased risk factor on miscarriage or premature birth (The Timing of Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Cortisol and Psychosocial Stress is Associated with Human Infant Cognitive Development, Davis, Sandman, 2010). Work/life balance has heavily tipped in favour of work due to progression of technology and financial pressures families are placed under. In addition, pregnant employees are being pressured to work as close to their due date as possible leading again to increased stress levels, increase in new mums not bonding with their baby as they are missing out on a crucial 'nesting' phase and an increase in premature births and post-natal depression.
There is a decline in the social care services to new mums
- One in ten women felt that they did not get the support or consistent advice in the first 6 weeks after their birth according to an NCT (National Childbirth Trust) report
- Inconsistent information given to new mums
- A third of new mums according to an NCT report were not satisfied with the support or information they were given
There is a significant Increase in depression in new mums
- Social media: has allowed a bullying culture and peer pressure on issues such a breastfeeding to the extend some mums have been ostracised, or worse, taken their own lives
- Celebrity culture: again social media plays its part in portraying 'perfect world' scenarios to new mums who struggle socially, emotionally and financially to 'keep up'. Whether that be to lose their post baby weight, to appear perfectly groomed the day after their baby is born or to ensure the latest 'must have' accessory
There is also a significant increase in separation anxiety for babies of mums returning to work
Due to Statutory Maternity Pay changes in recent years, mums are returning to work on average when baby is 6-9 months old. This is during a crucial stage of baby's development of separation anxiety. Financial pressure on families and mum's to 'retain' their pre-pregnancy career is such that they have no choice but to return at this time. Paid maternity leave needs to be increased to at least one full year.
Britain ranks 11th out of 18 countries reviewed for equality at work.
- British working mothers are significantly worse off than those without family responsibilities
- Gender pay gap: without children is 9%, with children is 21%
- Financial inclusion is one of the keys to closing the gender gap, however, current policies are actively working against this
3 out of 4 working mothers experience some type of discrimination in their professional life
• ½ of working mothers say pregnancy and maternity leave had a negative impact on their career
• Equality & Human Rights Commission reported up to 54,000 mums were forced out of their jobs in 2016.
So, how do we make motherhood work?
First and foremost, we have to remember that our entire future rests on the ability of woman to give birth to healthy babies. There will be no 'next generation' if we do not start making motherhood a right and a priority, and that is across the world!
• Eliminating discrimination during pregnancy
• Access to correct and supportive information and services
• Supporting their working environments and pregnancy needs
o Reducing stress
o Sufficient time off before the baby's due date to facilitate crucial stage of bonding and baby's development in the womb and mum's health & well-being
o Supportive maternity leave without pressures of returning prematurely
• Shared parenting
• Flexible working
• Supportive and non-destructive maternity leave/pay
• Supportive and non-destructive childcare funding
• Support services for all parents to access
• A society that supports motherhood in its raw beauty and not one that portrays a false image, is judgmental and berating
Therefore, this International Women's Day my #beboldforchange message is Save Motherhood!
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org