Pregnant women and new mothers are referred to midwives ’social services for refusing to follow their advice, patient advocacy groups warn.
Expectant parents who refuse care, including opting out of scans, refusing inductions or not attending antenatal appointments, are among those faced with threats from health care professionals. worth the coercion, according to the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (Aims).
“Since the pandemic, our helpline has seen an increase in those at risk or referring to social services for being denied certain types of medical care during their pregnancy, even opting out of inductions, trials or scans are perfectly legal and valid options, ”said Maddie McMahon, a helpline volunteer.
While the problem has been around for a long time, calls to Goals have risen since Covid-19 crisis, with 5% of inquiries between April 2020 and March 2021 associated with concerns about a referral, either actual or threatened. Aims coordinator Nadia Higson said: “Often the threat of a referral is used to coerce anyone to receive undesirable care.”
He added that since the pandemic started there has been an increase in the number of cases where there has been a threat to those. opting for a freebirth – childbirth without medical staff present by choice – After leaving home services in some areas- instead of agreeing they found it a more dangerous option to have their baby in a Covid-affected hospital.
The charity Birthrights said it also saw the number of reports about social service referrals more than double in the last fiscal year.
Rachel Ree, from Manchester, gave birth at home on Dec. 23 without complications. But on Christmas Day she received a call saying the blood samples taken from the umbilical cord for regular tests were not properly labeled and destroyed, meaning she would take her baby to the hospital that day for a blood test.
“I told them I wouldn’t take my newborn to the hospital during a pandemic for something that wouldn’t benefit him – but they said if I refused to‘ get involved with another agency ’,” he said. “They even said the police would go and take the baby to the hospital.”
Heather Spain wrote an open letter to midwives, who claimed she was “arrested” in a postnatal ward in Wales after the birth of her son in February. She was asked to stay in the hospital for a repeated blood test instead of taking her baby home and returning later for testing. The 34-year-old said: “Waiting for the test meant another night in the hot, noisy ward, where I was extremely tired and struggling to sleep and take care of my baby without the support of my partner, who not visited due to restrictions on Covid-19. “
But when he attempted to leave, staff refused to unlock the doors, called security and threatened to call police. He wrote: “No day goes by if I don’t wonder…[why] you held me and my four -day -old newborn captive in the maternity ward, when you initiated the child abduction protocol, which resulted in three male security officers physically blocking my path. “
After negotiating with the ward manager, he was finally able to leave but was warned that staff would be forced to report him to social services. “If I hadn’t been alone, I don’t think I would have been treated that way,” Spain said. “I think women are left more vulnerable to such threats during a pandemic because they don’t have birth partners to support them.
“I knew they had no legal right to keep me there but I was shocked when I felt I had no strength.”
The Spaniard, who is a diplomat and read extensively about the subject of childbirth after learning she was pregnant, said she was haunted by the thought of women less able to advocate for themselves.
Shivalee Patel, from west London, had a freebirth after feeling that trust had been broken between her and the community’s midwives. She was reported to children’s social services at 36 weeks pregnant because those assigned to her home birth did not agree on how she intended to manage her labor. “I ended up doing it alone with my partner, a friend and a birth coach,” she said. “I would have preferred support from a midwife as well but I’m not safe with them because they didn’t listen.”
Maria Booker, program director at Birthrights, said: “Referrals to social services are for concerns about how to care for a baby after it is born. They are not a tool for coercing women. and birth to people who make different birth choices. “
Lea Hazard, a midwife based in Scotland and author of It’s hard Pushed: Story of a Midwife, said it was important not to insult midwives. He said: But I think part of the problem is a broader culture of defensive practice, and perhaps, for some people, that can push them to make decisions that are inconsistent with their professional obligations. ”
Ang Royal College of Midwives (RCM) highlighted the role of the midwife in empowering women to make informed choices during pregnancy and birth. It said that the ability of midwives to communicate implications for a particular choice is based on building trust. But added: This is a big concern for RCM… The reality is that time and resource pressures mean communication is sometimes not as clear as it should be and sadly, some women feel that their desires are ignored. “
RCM is published guidance for midwives, including how to support those who choose for an unassisted birth. NHS England said it was up to individuals to trust to create their own protected protocols.