The UK midwifery empire strikes back

107457118 - self pity word in a dictionary. self pity concept.

I almost feel sorry for the older generation of UK midwives. They were taught by other midwives that midwifery hegemony was the key to safer outcomes, maternal satisfaction and tremendous cost savings. Faced with evidence of major failures on all three counts, they are struggling with serious cognitive dissonance.

There have been a myriad of midwifery scandals in the UK involving the preventable deaths of dozens of babies and many mothers. In nearly all cases babies and mothers died because midwives chose to arrogate their care to themselves and did not call obstetricians and pediatricians for assistance in high risk situations.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Babies and mothers have died and billions have been paid out in liability, but midwives feel sorriest for themselves.[/pullquote]

There has been an increasing outcry from women who resent the way that midwives have privileged their priority for so called “normal” birth over women’s personal priorities. Women resent that midwives promote their vision, discourage and interfere with obtaining epidurals, prevent women from accessing C-sections, and refuse to honestly inform women about the longterm risks of vaginal birth including prolapse, incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

To the horror of both government and population, maternity liability payments have exploded. They now stand at approximately £2 billion per year. Fully 20% of the annual budget for maternity care is spent on liability costs.

UK midwives have two choices:

1. They could apologize for their deadly mistakes and vow to learn from them.
2. They could insist they are being persecuted and feel sorry for themselves.

The older generation of midwives behind a new website, Birth Practice and Politics Forum, have chosen the second course.

Before analyzing what they have written, it is helpful to consider what an ethical childbirth ideology would look like. It’s relatively simple:

Her baby, her body, her birth, HER choice. Midwives’ preference are irrelevant.

Now, let’s look at the way that UK midwives ignore issues of safety, maternal satisfaction, and liability expenditures to focus on … their cherished beliefs.

Women are not being nurtured and cared for during pregnancy and birth in a way that supports and enhances their well-being or confidence in their abilities to give birth and become competent confident mothers. There is an on-going undermining of women’s rights and agency, and of the understanding that most women can give birth physiologically and without interference.

So what if mothers and babies are dying? So what if women are unsatisfied with midwifery care? So what if the government is paying billions each year to settle liability claims? In the view of these midwives the real issue is that they are being persecuted!

I kid you not.

Midwives and their support for normal birth are being unfairly attacked, if not demonised. This is preventing them from using their midwifery knowledge and skills to give women and families the kind of care they know is best and that has been repeatedly shown to provide excellent physical, emotional and psychological outcomes for mothers and babies. (my emphasis)

What about the dead babies and mothers?

The concept of risk is wheeled out at every turn. Risk and its avoidance have become so embedded in maternity care that decision-making has been all but removed from the mother and her midwife. Health practitioners’ fears of reprisal and fears of the birth process itself can and do lead to women being threatened either that their baby will die or be damaged, or with referral to social services if they do not follow medical advice.

It seems never to have crossed the midwives’ minds that the problem here is that risk and its avoidance have NOT become embedded in midwifery care and that the plethora of dead babies and dead mothers is the direct and predictable result.

Anyway there’s more to birth than a live baby and a live mother, right?

Although the rhetoric in maternity care focuses on safety and safe care, this is still largely restricted to short-term outcomes, often measuring only or mainly the survival of mother and baby…

If anyone has been ignoring the long-term outcomes of birth it’s the midwives themselves. Although they go into extraordinary detail with women about the purported long term risks of NOT having a vaginal birth, they don’t deign to mention the far more common long-term risks of HAVING a vaginal birth. For example, the absolute risk of urinary incontinence after vaginal birth is literally 10,000% higher than the absolute risk of placenta accreta after a C-section. You read that right, 10,000% higher, but midwives don’t seem to think that long-term outcome is worth talking about.

The midwives have the temerity to claim:

Maternity care is increasingly influenced by current ideological and financial considerations rather than rooted in what is best for women, babies and families.

Doing everything possible to avoid preventable deaths is not an ideology, it is an ethical requirement.
Doing everything possible to meet the stated preferences of mothers is not an ideology, it’s an ethical mandate.
Doing everything possible to reduce the liability payments for babies and mothers who are injured or die at the hands of midwives is not an ideology nor a financial consideration, it is basic medical ethics.

No matter!

We are concerned about a range of different but related influences on health care that are worsening maternity services for women, babies and families, for midwives and for other birth workers.

How could preventing perinatal and maternal deaths, improving maternal satisfaction and reducing liability payments “worsen” care for women, babies and families? It won’t; it will IMPROVE care. The real problem is that changes that improve safety and address women’s preferences will undercut the hegemony of UK midwives and therefore “worsen” their experience. But their experience is irrelevant.

Can you imagine if doctors had greeted the scientific evidence that routine episiotomy is harmful to women by insisting that the practice must be maintain to address the needs of obstetricians? Can you imagine if anesthesiologists rejected a woman’s preference to avoid medication and gave her an epidural anyway to improve the anesthesiologists’ experiences? There would be outrage and rightfully so. Patients don’t exist to meet providers’ needs; providers exist to meet patients’ needs.

As I said above, I almost feel sorry for these midwives. But I don’t for the simple reason that their happiness is not and should never be the goal of the maternity care system. The goal is patient safety and patient satisfaction, a point that seems to have utterly escaped midwives’ attention during their pity party for themselves.

11 Responses to “The UK midwifery empire strikes back”

  1. fiftyfifty1
    September 17, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    What is the problem with these midwives?! Just call in doctor back up more often! Pick up the damn phone and call the anesthesiologist/OB/pediatrican/GP already! Problem solved.

  2. September 17, 2018 at 10:20 am #

    OT: This was published almost a month ago, but I saw it just now. I can’t believe some of the author’s friends and family worried about her ability to breastfeed in the face of a BRCA mutation.

    “I wasn’t worried that my future babies would go hungry if I had this risk-reducing surgery. I was worried they would go without their mom….My choice did not come without its criticism. Friends and even family members did not understand my rush to the operating room and why I wouldn’t wait until after I had kids, so I could breastfeed them before swapping the real thing for silicone.”

    • Heidi
      September 17, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      What the f***? People expect her to put her life at risk for something that very well not workout or that she may dislike. Gah, people!

  3. September 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m going to nitpick the midwives’ language. The risks of childbirth are not being avoided– the only way to avoid the risk of childbirth is to not get pregnant, or get an abortion if one finds oneself pregnant. The risks of pregnancy are being mitigated through appropriate risk control measures- monitoring, early intervention, scenario analysis, and failure mode analysis when something goes wrong to avoid future incidents.

  4. PeggySue
    September 15, 2018 at 3:10 pm #

    It sounds as if they believe unmedicated vaginal childbirth conveys the confidence necessary for a woman to parent. Weird.

    • RudyTooty
      September 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm #


      People can be confident and wildly mis-informed. Who cares about confidence?

      • PeggySue
        September 15, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

        IKR. But to be a walking proof of the Dunning-Krueger effect, one Must. Have. Confidence.

  5. rational thinker
    September 15, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

    These midwives are seriously screwed up in the head. They dont care what happens long term to the mother or baby cause its not happening to them.They do not have to deal with urinary incontinence or a damaged or worse baby. It seems like they have never even heard the term medical ethics.

    • Box of Salt
      September 15, 2018 at 6:05 pm #

      “cause its not happening to them”

      But it may have. They may be dealing with it themselves. But then they come to view it as a rite of passage: those who follow them should suffer as they have suffered. No different from frat boys and hazing.

      • Anna
        September 15, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

        Plus they may only be in their 30s or 40s. It wont be till later on that they realise the downside of their 10lb “ecstatic” 4hour pushing HBACs. A lot of women get into midwifery also because they had a great experience (aka luck) and society does tell them that makes them better Mothers amd women . Naturally they want to share that with others, but they have bought hook, line and sinker the belief that midwives and avoiding intervention means you wont need it, rather than luck.

  6. Tina
    September 15, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

    “There is an on-going undermining of women’s rights and agency, and of the understanding that most women can give birth physiologically and without interference.” It doesn’t matter whether most women CAN give birth physiologically and without interference….what matters is if women WANT to! If women want an elective c-section, they should get one and any midwife should support any woman’s chose. Maybe I CAN have a root canal without anesthesia….but I probably don’t WANT to…and nobody would judge me for that.

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