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March with Midwives – stand together for maternity services

By Maddie McMahon, Doula and Doula Trainer, March With Midwives Steering Group Member

We know all is not right in maternity services. In this article Maddie McMahon paints a stark picture of what services could become if nothing is done. On 20th November the March for Midwives will take place at an area near you; she invites and encourages all to attend in solidarity.



March with Midwives – stand together for maternity services


I would like to invite you to imagine a future without a functioning maternity system. You won’t need to stretch your imagination muscles too much – you merely need to look around the world, at lower income countries, to see the suffering and lifelong repercussions of inadequate or non-existent maternity care.


What can happen when people do not receive any medical surveillance during pregnancy? What are the repercussions of women not receiving emotional support or having a relationship of trust with a midwife? Inadequate access to abortion, pre-eclampsia missed, poverty and abuse left unaddressed…the list is easy to write.


It’s simple for us to picture what happens when units are closed, or midwives in short supply. When parents, forced into long journeys, end up giving birth on the side of the road or at home alone, damage is done. Trauma is rife and danger stalks a day that should be joyful.


It’s not an effort to imagine a postpartum without adequate care, either. From premature breastfeeding cessation to domestic violence and suicide, the ramifications of lack of support during the early weeks can be heartbreaking.


When once we would look at developing countries and thank our lucky stars we lived in the UK, it is now not difficult at all to visualise our broken system collapsing entirely. When once we grieved a good midwife leaving the service, now we are unable to keep up with the numbers walking out, completely spent.


We know what happens when midwives are not given autonomy, support and decent pay. We see the moral injury, the nervous breakdowns, the loss of skill and experience, the lack of wise and gentle mentoring for the next generation.


It is one small step to imagine a total collapse in applications to midwifery training. It’s simple to foresee the widening disparities and social inequalities as those who can afford it seek private care. It’s not hard to picture the effect on maternity care in the context of a wider collapse in NHS systems and ambulance service provision.


We all know, all too well, what can happen, what might happen, what will happen and what already is happening because of the shortages in the maternity system. We understand that many of the traumas that ensue ripple through lifetimes and cascade down the generations.


And yet we stay in our lane, heads down in our silos, telling ourselves that maybe it’s not that bad, worried to speak out for fear of scaring parents or attracting criticism from our managers or peers. Or perhaps it just feels too overwhelming – when we feel at the end of our tether it can feel impossible to summon the energy for the fight.


But what option do we have but to fight? We quite literally know what will happen if we do nothing. The dystopian future so easily imagined is already happening – not everywhere, every day, but at an alarming rate. So please, please March with Midwives on the 20th November at 2pm in a town near you. In solidarity, in sisterhood, maternity staff, lay birthworkers and parents, together, shoulder to shoulder. Because midwives’ working conditions are families’ birthing conditions.


Together, we call on the Government to:


  1. LISTEN: The Government must accept the Heath and Social Care committee recommendation to increase resources across the NHS and set out a workforce plan with measures to increase retention and support staff
  2. FUND: An immediate appropriate, restorative pay rise for midwives that reflects the value society places on their vital work. Award recruitment and retention premia to new entrants and existing staff. Provide financial support for student midwives and create posts for all newly qualified midwives.
  3. ENABLE: The government must renew their commitment to implementing the recent Women’s’ Health Strategy by being ambitious in their approach to improving the quality and accessibility of service and information around women’s health.
  4. REDUCE: An immediate review and reduction of the administrative responsibilities of midwives, including the requirement for duplication of data from or within the medical record.
  5. ACT: Unions representing midwives must enact and support radical industrial action to ensure that we hold our government to account and protect midwives and the families they serve


You can find out where your local demonstration is happening by joining the March With Midwives UK facebook group



March With Midwives linktree  for our manifesto, vision and mission, practical resources for local demonstration organising and to contribute your story for us to use to persuade politicians to invest in maternity services.


Please spread the word. This is not industrial action. Midwives are free to attend. Last year 16,000 people, including midwifery managers and lecturers, MSWs, doctors, doulas and families, took to the streets and thousands more supported us on social media. We got national press coverage and we put maternity services firmly on the political agenda. Let’s do it again. Because imagining what will happen if we don’t is just too much to bear.


Maddie McMahon, doula and doula trainer, March With Midwives Steering group member

[email protected]