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ss triple helix - spring 2024,  crisis in midwifery

crisis in midwifery

Gemma Griffiths is a Growth Assessment Protocol (GAP) Midwife in Northampton, and the CMF Nurses and Midwives Staffworker
Midwifery was in the news for all the wrong reasons at the end of last year, and again in mid-May this year. As a midwife of ten years, I was heartbroken to read headlines from The Times saying: 'Midwives' "toxic" working conditions putting babies' lives at risk, report finds',[1] and The Telegraph saying: '"Russian roulette" maternity units risk lives of mothers and babies, say midwives'.[2] Both articles reference a report published by the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) about bullying in midwifery and why midwives have left, or want to leave, the profession.[3]

If I thought the news headlines were hard to read, the report's content knocked me for six. Reading almost 150 pages of first-hand accounts of incivility and bullying of staff, some at the hands of the very people who were supposed to advocate for them, reduced me to tears. I found myself echoing David's words to God in Psalm 13: 'How long Lord?…How long will my enemy triumph over me?' I have been very blessed in my career to have never experienced bullying, but I grieve for my fellow midwives who are suffering. First, an erosion to the way the art of midwifery can be performed, next, chronic staff shortages and burnout, and now this!

Meanwhile, on 13 May 2024, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Birth Trauma released a report on the appalling inconsistency in maternal care across the UK. It shockingly found that in much of the UK, poor maternity and postnatal care is 'all-too-frequently tolerated as normal'. The report estimates that 30,000 women a year suffer negative experiences during labour. One in twenty go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.[4]Both reports repeat the call of the Royal College of Midwives for more midwives to be trained and employed for the safety of mothers and the protection of staff.[5]

It certainly seems like a dark and hopeless time for midwifery and maternal healthcare in the UK. I mourn for the student midwives who are trying to learn how to care for women in a system where 'care is being squeezed out in the interest of efficiency'.[6] I mourn for the newly qualified midwives, who are expected to take on too much too soon because there is no one else to do it. I mourn for the midwives who don't feel like they can speak out against bullying for fear of their jobs being made harder than they already are. I mourn for the mothers and their babies traumatised by inadequate care, and I mourn for the loss of my great love, my calling, this huge part of me…

…And yet, I could tell you so many stories of the selfless, Christ-like care I have witnessed midwives giving at my Trust, enough to fill an entire newspaper.

As a profession, we need to be actively speaking out against bullying and speaking up against the poor working conditions that midwives face, and poor standards of care that too many mothers experience. We need to lobby at every level for meaningful change, more funding, more training and recruitment, and for better wellbeing strategies. Most importantly, we need to pray actively, calling out to the God who hears our prayers[7] for peace, for us to be made more like Christ, and that he would bring his kingdom through us to transform our workplaces. I pray that our culture would be so radically changed from negative to positive that the newspaper headlines would only be able to tell of the amazing things that midwives do.

Accessed 13/05/2024
  1. Lay K. Midwives 'toxic' working conditions putting babies' lives at risk, report finds. The Times. 13 November 2023.
  2. Taylor R. 'Russian roulette' maternity units risk lives of mothers and babies, say midwives. The Telegraph 13 November 2023.
  3. Hughes D, et al. #Saynotobullyinginmidwifery Report. The Association of Radical Midwives. 12 November 2023.
  4. Listen to Mums: Ending the Postcode Lottery on Perinatal Care. A report by The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Birth Trauma. 13 May 2024.
  5. RCM warns of midwife exodus as maternity staffing crisis grows. Royal College of Midwives Press Release. 4 October 2021.
  6. Bunting M. Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care. London: Granta Books, 2020
  7. Mark 11:24
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