I believe so. Yes.
I was rather delighted to read about this proposed development for women on the BBC yesterday. It came on the day that I got to meet my own Independent Midwife, Virginia Howes from the Kent Midwifery Practice for the first time. It's a meeting that almost never happened. Why?
As an antenatal educator, one of the key messages I pass on to the thousands of women I support every year through The Calm Birth School hypnobirthing program is to build a great support team around you. I know from both personal experience and the stories shared by so many of the women who come through the course that the attitude, kindness, empathy and energy of the people who support you on your baby's birthday will have a profound effect on the way you give birth whether you realize it or not.
However, the journey to how you welcome your baby into the world on the day you go into labour doesn't start when you feel your body cramping for the first time, it starts during pregnancy. How you're supported, how you feel, how you are able to manage your stress levels and educate yourself about the different choices that maybe presented to you on the day you labour will all have a profound effect on what happens in the birth room. What we know to be true, from the vast amount of evidence available is continuity of care, seeing the same midwife/team of midwives right throughout your pregnancy and birth, leads to better birth outcomes for both mother and baby.
Although I have had two extremely positive birth experiences on the NHS, my first marred but not ruined by one unsupportive midwife, for my third (and last) pregnancy I have opted for an independent midwife. Namely because of a series of moderately negative experiences that led up to the 15 week mark in my pregnancy. The straw that broke the camel's back left me feeling extremely angry and upset and in my frustration the first person I called was Virginia to find out about the services she offers at the Kent Midwifery Practice. As soon as I spoke to her I knew that I wanted everything! The full service antenatal appointments in my home, her support during my birth and the postnatal follow up visits. However, I also knew that my husband would FREAK the hell out when I told him the cost.
And true to form that's what he did. From the time I knew I wanted to book my antenatal care to negotiating with my husband about the benefits of going down this route took weeks. And the only reason that the decision to move forward with the service took place is because I'm self-employed and I was able to justify the additional expenditure by bringing in additional revenue from my business. Of course I couldn't help but think about the irony of the conversations I was having, with my generally very supportive partner, in light of what I teach and preach for a living.
While feeling extremely fortunate I could bring in the money to enjoy this 'luxury', I was also seriously pissed off at the number of women who don't have that option. The number of women who don't have between £3K - £5K in the bank that the family aren't going to miss to put towards hiring a private midwife. The number of women whose husbands essentially control the purse strings and need for those women to make the case for superior healthcare who are unsuccessful. It's not just about having the disposable income, but also having to justify why you should want or why you need this type of care when it's available for free.
This is why although question marks have been raised about women having to opt for the cheapest care as opposed to going for the care that is best for them...don't the majority of us have to do that anyway? Some argue that the money should be invested into better antenatal education for women and into the midwifery system itself, which are perspectives I understand. However, if this initiative can be rolled out in a way that gives women more choice and the opportunity to opt for continuity of care in a system that is not currently able to provide this much needed service at scale, then I am all for this development.
What do you think?