#FightFear: the hateful truth at the heart of UK midwifery

fight fear

What would you think of tobacco companies if they marketed cigarettes with a campaign entitled #FightFear? Why should people miss out on the pleasures of smoking just because they fear getting lung cancer, right?

Or how about beer companies promoting drunk driving with a campaign entitled #FightFear? Why should people miss out on the pleasures of partying just because they fear killing themselves and others while driving home drunk, right?

Disgusting? Yes. Hateful? Yes. Deadly? Absolutely!

Not if you are a British midwife, apparently. The latest meme to hit the world of UK midwifery is #FightFear. Why should women forgo midwifery care just because they fear killing their baby? Why should midwives forgo promoting “normal birth” just because it leads to dead babies?

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

Check out the tweets emanating from a UK conference “Fighting the Fear: Providing positive maternity care in a litigation culture”:




The tweets are hardly surprising considering the nature of the conference. According to its sponsor Birthrights (motto: “Protecting human rights in childbirth”):

“Fighting the Fear: Providing positive maternity care in a litigation culture” offers a day of supportive discussion and reflection about fear of litigation, its impact on maternity care and strategies for overcoming it. We will hear from leading lawyers and midwives in constructive sessions designed to improve understanding, confidence and assertiveness in those who support women during pregnancy and birth…

Speakers include the typical apologists for crappy midwifery care:

… including Hannah Dahlen, Sheena Byrom, Mary Nolan, Alison Brown and Janet Sayers. Fiona Timmins will also join us in the afternoon to offer assertiveness training, with strategies specifically developed for midwives. We will be seeking, and expect to receive, RCM accreditation for the event.

How illuminating and tragic, then, is the juxtaposition of this conference of apologists for deadly midwifery care against the report detailing the hideous stillbirth rate in the UK.

LEADING experts are to tackle the country’s stillborn baby “scandal” which sees 17 infants die every day either near or shortly after birth.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is so alarmed at the death toll that next month it will launch a five year project to reduce the fatalities.

The government funded plan, “Each Baby Counts” will specifically aim to halve the number of preventable still births and cases of brain damage. Many of these have been linked to under staffed and overstretched maternity units together with poor quality care.

The first stage of the project will be to build a sophisticated data base of all still births and brain damage occurring during labour. This information will be analysed and the results used to develop national strategies to prevent future tragedies occurring.

The last comprehensive comparative study, a 2011 report carried out by the Lancet, put the UK well down the league table of 193 nations, including some of the world’s poorest countries, on a par with Belarus and Estonia.

It came 33rd of out the 35 high-income countries, with only New Zealand, Austria and France having higher stillbirth rates.

Many of these babies are dying because the midwives who care for them are so anxious to promote “normal birth” that they shun the interventions that would save their lives:

More than half of stillbirths in the UK could be prevented if the NHS implemented additional scans, a leading obstetrician has told Panorama.

Each year, more than 3,000 babies are stillborn in the UK, one of the worst rates in the developed world.

Prof Kypros Nicolaides says offering all women Doppler scans, which measure blood flow between the placenta and foetus, could save 1,500 babies a year…

Three-quarters of a million babies are born in the UK each year. One in 200 dies before birth, mostly to mothers with no known risk factors.

Many deaths are caused by a failure in the mother’s placenta – if the blood flow is abnormal, babies are starved of food and oxygen.

Often the problems occur towards the end of pregnancy, but, if identified, the baby can be monitored carefully and delivered by Caesarean before the placenta fails.

This can be spotted by a Doppler scan, but most hospitals use these only on the 15%-20% of women who are deemed high risk – as per national guidelines.

So let’s see if I get this straight: The UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the world and that stillbirth rate could be lowered dramatically by the use of regular ultrasounds even in low risk pregnancies. Meanwhile, UK midwives are worried not about the dead babies, but about the fact that efforts to save these babies will interfere with their mindless and deadly promotion of “normal birth.”

It seems to me that the problem isn’t fear. Fear is the ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE RESPONSE to preventable perinatal deaths. The problem is UK midwives who place ideological purity above the very lives of their tiny patients.

#FightFear should be replaced with #FightUKMidwives who are willing to let babies die in order to protect their professional ideology.