By Katherine Hales, ARM National Coordinator
We regret the reporting in the Times and the Guardian yesterday morning (12/08/2017) of the decision by the RCM to integrate their ‘Campaign for Normal Birth’ into the new RCM ‘Better Births’ initiative.The report suggests that in the past women have been “told that they should have babies without medical intervention” and that as a result midwives have failed to refer women to medical practitioners when required to do so. It also suggests that the use of the word “normal” has instilled a feeling of failure in women who have had interventions in childbirth.
As is often the case in media discussion and reporting on childbirth the discourse becomes polarised with commentators lining up with opposing views and any more subtle points of view entirely lost. Few people and no midwives would, I suggest, promote normal birth “at all costs” but it has to be remembered that midwives are required to be protectors of normality. We facilitate the optimum conditions in which a woman can give birth safely and without the unnecessary interventions which can mitigate against physiological birth. Midwives are required to stand with women offering emotional and physical support but remaining observant and alert for any sign of problems developing for a women or her baby. This is an internationally recognised part of the midwives role supported by both RCM and RCOG.
Unfortunately these reports suggest that midwives are to abandon the aim of protecting normal birth and that women who hope to fulfil a plan to birth vaginally are unrealistic. We suggest that this reporting is patronising and dangerous, women and midwives know that sometimes interventions in labour and birth are necessary. The failings found in institutions and individual practitioners have not occurred because the RCM highlighted the requirement for midwives to facilitate normal birth. This obligation has always existed; but most midwives are also well aware of their duty to have open, informative conversations with women in their care to enable them to make decisions for their care which best fit their wishes and circumstances. It is also important to remember that the Royal College of Midwives are not a regulatory body and do not set standards for midwifery education or practice. The reports in the Times and the Guardian make it sound as if the RCM has this power.
There are many complex reasons why medical interventions in childbirth have increased in recent decades but midwives will continue to stand with women in protecting safe physiological birth as long women wish us to do so.
Please let us know your views in the comments.