Campaigning for ‘normal births’ will cease as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) overhauls its professional guidelines to avoid the ‘danger’ of associating medical intervention with abnormality.
At present, around 40% of mothers give birth naturally – that is, without procedures including epidurals, inductions or caesareans to help the process along. Three decades ago, 60% of mothers were giving birth with no medical aids.
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The RCM maintains that these natural births are better for mothers and babies, but will now refer to them as ‘physiological births’ instead of ‘normal births’ – a term which they have used in a campaign running since 2005.
Criticism for the campaign surfaced after 16 babies and three mothers died at Furness General Hospital, Cumbria, between 2004 and 2013. An investigation found that a team of midwives were performing unsafe deliveries in an attempt to facilitate so-called ‘normal births’ without interventions ‘at any cost’.
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‘There was a danger that if you just talk about normal births – and particularly if you call it a campaign – it kind of sounds as if you’re only interested in women who have a vaginal birth without intervention,’ RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick told the Times.
‘What we don’t want to do is in any way contribute to any sense that a woman has failed because she hasn’t had a normal birth. Unfortunately that seems to be how some women feel.’
Professor Warwick said that the word ‘normal’ was being replaced due to its ‘value-laden’ nature and the use of ‘physiological’ would better explain the RCM’s position without isolating women who give birth with medical aid.
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Jeannette Parkison, former maternity risk manager at Furness General Hospital, told the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that she should be struck off for her misconduct, as her failure to investigate colleagues had left her fitness to practice impaired.
Two midwives have been struck off and another suspended as part of the NMC’s investigation into the scandal. The Department of Health has announced an investigation into the NMC’s handling of complaints against midwives and their relationship with witnesses, which will take place over six months.