Facts, Fiction and Other Stuff

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us for our first Growing Families event, which took place at the Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester City Centre on Thursday 6th October 2016.  We really enjoyed ourselves, and we hope that you did too.

Please take a look at our Storify of the tweets from the day:


Our Steller story round up:


And the gallery of photographs, all taken by the fabulous Molly Aparicio-Hancox:


We have been reviewing the feedback that you gave to us on the day, and we have sent out surveys to all attendees to find out more about what you enjoyed, what could have been better and what you’d like to see from us in the future.  We will also be asking our speakers and sponsors for their thoughts – it is so important to us to hear from everybody who took part.  We will be using all of your thoughts and ideas to help us to shape our plans for the future of Growing Families.

In the meantime we’d like to share just a couple of wishes with you from the wishes tree on the day:



We will keep these, and other, wishes with us as we look to the future.  Our thanks once again to everyone who helped us to tackle that crucial postnatal information, to make it accessible to families and to help families to face the challenges ahead.

The Growing Families team

Your Human Rights in Childbirth

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our inaugural Growing Families event in Manchester on Thursday 6th October.  Whilst we reflect on the feedback and think about what happens next, we are delighted to continue with our blog series.  Our thanks to Rebecca Schiller of Birthrights for this piece on your human rights in childbirth.


You may not feel like it at times but you are the same rational, adult human you were before you took the job of incubator for new life. The idea behind the human rights in childbirth movement is nothing more than that. Human rights principles and the legal framework that makes them powerful insist that you are treated with dignity and respect during pregnancy and birth and are never simply as the means to an end.

All public bodies and servants (like hospitals and the doctors and midwives who work in them) must ensure your human rights (as set out in the Human Rights Act 1998 and a series of national, regional and international agreements) are adhered to throughout your pregnancy and birth.

This is good news for you and your baby as there’s a strong relationship between safe, quality care and rights-respecting care. Care that puts you – the pregnant woman – at its heart is better for everyone.


  • You have a right to receive safe maternity care that’s appropriate to your needs.
  • You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • You have the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.
  • You have a right to bodily autonomy during pregnancy and birth. Whatever the situation, whatever the intervention you must be asked for your consent to any procedure and always have the right to say ‘no’.
  • Those caring for you must ensure they explain risks and benefits in a unbiased way that you can understand. They mustn’t only give you generic leaflets or one-sided information but must adapt their discussion to your circumstances and situation.
  • You should be given pain relief when you request it.
  • All reasonable efforts to ensure you can decide where and how you give birth should be made. There shouldn’t be blanket bans on certain women having certain kinds of births. Hospitals can have policies and criteria for birth centres and homebirths but women outside of these criteria should be enabled to access these birth setting if their requests can reasonably be accommodated.

You can find out more about your rights in pregnancy and birth at birthrights.org.uk.

Birthrights provides advice on lawful maternity care to families and healthcare professionals. We offer training on respectful care to midwives and doctors, conduct research into related issues and campaign to protect pregnant women using the human rights framework. You can support our work by hosting a #newchapter book club or becoming a monthly supporter.

Follow us on twitter @birthrightsorg and sign-up to our newsletter.


Rebecca Schiller
October 2016

A day in the life of a human rights centred midwife

We are so proud to have Birthrights as one of our sponsors for “Growing Families: Facts Fiction and Other Stuff” in Manchester on Thursday 6th October.  Here their trustee, Simon Mehigan, writes for us about what makes a human rights centred midwife.  The image at the top of this piece is the “heart values” word cloud from the #MatExp campaign, put together by Growing Families team member Emma Jane Sasaru.


Today started as many of my days do with me going straight into a meeting, no time to grab a drink or check my emails. The meeting was discussing how we improve services for women accessing early pregnancy and gynaecology. By redesigning our estate we can improve the journey for these women. How does that relate to their human rights? Well, ensuring women are cared for in an area that’s private and appropriately staffed with skilled nurses and medical staff means women that are suffering a miscarriage or early complications in pregnancy are appropriately cared for and supported. Midwives working in a hospital setting often don’t have any dealings with women below 20 weeks so its important that I make sure that the way in which these women are cared for compliments the midwifery care they receive and promotes the ethos of women centred care. If the care we give is based on the needs and wishes of individual women then we will be meeting their human rights.

Walking round the maternity unit I meet one of our new consultant midwives who talks to me about a women she has been caring for. This woman is very keen to have a vaginal birth but is being discouraged by some of the medical staff who have concerns about her risks. Midwives and obstetricians have an obligation to talk to women about any risk factors they may have. Unfortunately every Dr this woman has met has felt the need to reiterate this woman’s risks factors. As she clearly states “I know the risks, I’ve been told them, I’ve researched them, I just want the best chance to have a good birth experience”. The skill to being a woman centred midwife or doctor is to speak to women on an equal footing. To remove the power dynamic that is so often present in the relationship between health professionals and those they care for is one of the fundamental steps in building a trusting relationship. Trust is, I feel, one of the building blocks of a human rights based relationship with those we care for.

I meet a young woman who has recently given birth to her 1st child but is still here 6 days later. The baby has been under the care of the neonatologists. This intelligent woman has become a mother and has experienced first hand how the “just in case” approach and “Dr knows best” has led her to stay in hospital all this time. She’s a health professional and the work part of her has made her question the doctors, she doesn’t feel the treatment and the investigations her baby has had were necessary, but now she’s a mum and the very rational, logical, evidence based approach she uses every day at work has become clouded by the emotions that come with being a mother combined with all the changes taking place in her body following birth. We talk through how she feels, she comments on how the care she received was great until the baby was born and then it all “got out of control”. She has been told she can go home today so we agree that she will write to me, detailing her experiences as a mum and as a health professional. I can then use that to help me challenge some of the policies, procedures and behaviours that exist in the organisation that don’t support a culture of respecting the human rights of mothers and babies.

My afternoon is spent trying to support the managers in staffing the unit safely, rewriting a job advert for midwives focusing on attracting candidates that believe in women centred care and the role the midwife plays in facilitating choice and helping women and their families to have a positive birth experience. I then respond to a complaint from a woman who feels she wasn’t listened to when she was in pain, didn’t have her wishes respected or her beliefs.

New book by Birthrights Chief Executive Rebecca Schiller

All of the above makes my day sound pretty depressing but actually it’s full of positive stuff. I see midwives and doctors supporting women, being kind, communicating well and appropriately. I see staff members supporting each other with guidance and tips on how to manage particular situations and I see many, many happy faces of women, their partners and their families who have recently met the latest arrival to their family.

I haven’t laid a hand on a pregnant woman’s abdomen, or caught a baby as its mother pushes it out or helped a new dad figure out how to put a nappy on his new child. That doesn’t make me any less of a midwife nor does it mean I’ve not been able to act in a way that promotes the human rights of childbearing women.

What makes a “human rights centred midwife”?

Kindness, compassion, consideration, respect, honesty and a fundamental belief in a woman’s right to choice.

You know what’s interesting? You could take out “human rights centred” because these are all the qualities that make a great midwife and having spent 22 years working in maternity services the overwhelming majority of midwives I have met have all those qualities. Unfortunately sometimes the services they work in, the culture of the organisation in which they are employed doesn’t support them in demonstrating all these qualities. Fear of litigation, of not following guidelines or of being labelled a “maverick” midwife by supporting choices women make that might not be the norm, make some midwives act towards women in a way that they don’t fell comfortable with. This makes some midwives move on, some leave the profession all together and some give in, become part of the culture.

My words of wisdom…..

Be brave, be strong…….be a midwife…..


Simon Mehigan – Birthrights Trustee
Deputy Director of Midwifery
Chelsea and Westminster Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust



Trust Your Instincts

We are very proud to have eRedbook as one of four Oak sponsors for our event in Manchester on Thursday 6th October. In this blog piece they have interviewed one of the mums using eRedbook, Daniela Tanneberger, about being a mother, the difference between having your first and second child, and how the eRedbook helps her to manage her new baby’s health.


Daniela, mother to eight-year-old son Robin and three-month old daughter Emma, lives in Chessington. She’s originally from Germany and moved to the UK in 2015. As part of the London field test, her midwife told her about the eRedbook and she registered an account.

How was it for you to give birth in the UK, compared to your experience in Germany where you had your son?

I found the care system in the UK very different from the system in Germany, although I quickly adjusted. You get fewer check-ups and ultrasounds in the UK, but at the same time I’m not sure if all those appointments in Germany were really needed. Here you get a phone number and they tell you to call if something’s wrong, but you don’t really want to call. Once I did phone the maternity ward to rebook an appointment and was told by someone who sounded really annoyed that I should dial a different number. I was ready to tell them “Hey, I’m the pregnant lady, it should be me that’s emotional!” I was lucky that it was my second pregnancy and I was more comfortable.

Was pregnancy easier the second time around?

The second time was more relaxed. I knew what I had to buy, I didn’t waste time looking up the best buggy or buy stuff that I didn’t need. With my son it took me three months to find out that he liked the sound of the hairdryer as white noise. With my daughter I used the hairdryer straight away: she loves the sound as well and I use it to dry her off after a bath.


You are currently using the eRedbook to keep track of your baby’s health. What were your reasons for registering?

I use technology on a daily basis but I wouldn’t say I’m really into it – I’m not interested in the latest tablets or fitness gadgets. However, when my midwife told me about the eRedbook, I was immediately interested. The reason was that I travel all the time and I always lose paper documents. It’s much easier to have everything available online.

Would you recommend the eRedbook to other parents?

Yes, I definitely recommend the eRedbook to new parents, I absolutely love it. I’m terrible with paperwork, so I appreciate that I can log in to my daughter’s information now at all times.

The other day I spoke to my doctor and he complained that people are always late at appointments because they leave their red book at home and need to go back to get it. I told him that there’s no reason to be late as they can use the eRedbook with their smartphone. We all know how difficult it can be to get everything ready when you go to a doctor’s appointment; carrying the baby while scrambling to get the changing bag, dummy, car seat, etc. The eRedbook just makes it much easier.


What other advice do you have for new parents?

Trust your instincts. The guidance you receive sometimes seems really strict: ‘don’t use a dummy’, ‘do not co-sleep’, ‘do not spoil your baby’, etc. The truth is that it can be hard to maintain a strict routine, especially when you’re breastfeeding and your baby feeds on demand, and when your baby is not well it can be very comforting to let them sleep with you. You will get a lot of advice from family members and everyone means well, but different generations do different things. So trust your instincts and do what feels right to you.


Maddie Kortenaar interviewing Daniela Tanneberger
September 2016