Fear on the ward: UK mothers threatened with social services for refusing maternity care

9 months ago 146

Pregnant women and caller mothers are being referred to societal services by midwives for refusing to travel their advice, diligent advocacy groups person warned.

Expectant parents who person declined care, including opting retired of scans, refusing inductions oregon failing to be antenatal appointments, are among those who person faced threats from healthcare professionals amounting to coercion, according to the Association for Improvements successful the Maternity Services (Aims).

“Since the pandemic, our helpline has seen an summation successful those threatened with oregon referred to societal services for declining immoderate signifier of aesculapian attraction during their pregnancy, adjacent though opting retired of inductions, tests oregon scans are perfectly ineligible and valid choices,” said Maddie McMahon, a helpline volunteer.

While the occupation is long-standing, calls to Aims person accrued since the Covid-19 crisis, with 5% of inquiries betwixt April 2020 and March 2021 relating to concerns astir a referral, either existent oregon threatened. Aims coordinator Nadia Higson said: “Often the menace of a referral is utilized to coerce idiosyncratic into accepting unwanted care.”

She added that since the commencement of the pandemic determination had been an summation successful the fig of cases wherever threats had been made to those opting for a freebirth – giving commencement without aesculapian unit contiguous done choice – aft location services were withdrawn successful immoderate areas – alternatively than agreeing to what they saw arsenic the riskier enactment of having their babe successful a Covid-infected hospital.

The foundation Birthrights says it has besides seen the fig of reports astir societal work referrals much than treble successful the past fiscal year.

Rachel Ree, from Manchester, gave commencement astatine location connected 23 December with nary complications. But connected Christmas Day she received a telephone saying humor samples taken from the umbilical cord for regular checks had been incorrectly labelled and destroyed, meaning she would person to instrumentality her babe into infirmary that time for a humor test.

“I told them I would not beryllium taking my newborn into infirmary during a pandemic for thing that was of nary payment to her – but they said if I refused they would ‘get different bureau involved’,” she said. “They adjacent said the constabulary would travel and instrumentality the babe to hospital.”

Heather Spain says she and her lad   Ted were ‘held captive’
Heather Spain says she was ‘held captive’ connected a postnatal ward successful Wales with her lad Ted.

Heather Spain wrote an unfastened missive to midwives, claiming she was “held captive” connected a postnatal ward successful Wales aft the commencement of her lad successful February. She had been asked to enactment successful infirmary for a repetition humor trial alternatively of taking her babe location and returning aboriginal for the test. The 34-year-old said: “Waiting for the trial would person meant different nighttime connected the hot, noisy ward, wherever I was wholly exhausted and struggling to slumber and attraction for my babe without the enactment of my partner, who was incapable to sojourn due to the fact that of Covid-19 restrictions.”

Yet erstwhile she tried to leave, unit refused to unlock doors, called information and threatened to telephone the police, she alleged. She wrote: “There is not a time that goes by erstwhile I don’t wonder…[why] you held maine and my past four-day-old newborn captive connected the maternity ward, erstwhile you initiated the kid abduction protocol, resulting successful 3 antheral information officers physically blocking my path.”

After negotiating with the ward manager, she yet managed to permission but was warned unit would beryllium obliged to study her to societal services. “Had I not been alone, I don’t deliberation I would person been treated successful that way,” said Spain. “I consciousness women person been near progressively susceptible to specified threats during the pandemic due to the fact that they haven’t had their commencement partners astir to enactment them.

“I knew they had nary ineligible close to support maine determination but I was shocked to find myself feeling truthful powerless.”

Spain, who is simply a diplomat and work extensively astir the taxable of childbirth aft learning she was pregnant, said she felt haunted astatine the thought of women little capable to advocator for themselves.

Shivalee Patel opted for a freebirth aft  saying she had mislaid  religion  successful  midwives.
Shivalee Patel opted for a freebirth aft saying she had mislaid religion successful midwives. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Shivalee Patel, from westbound London, had a freebirth aft feeling that spot had breached down betwixt her and assemblage midwives. She was reported to children’s societal services astatine 36 weeks large due to the fact that those assigned to her location commencement disagreed with however she intended to negociate her labour. “I ended up doing it connected my ain with my partner, a person and a commencement coach,” she said. “I would person preferred enactment from a midwife arsenic good but I didn’t consciousness harmless with them due to the fact that they didn’t listen.”

Maria Booker, programmes manager astatine Birthrights, said: “Referrals to societal services are for concerns astir however a babe volition beryllium cared for aft it is born. They are not a instrumentality for coercing women and birthing radical into making antithetic commencement choices.”

Leah Hazard, a Scotland-based midwife and the writer of Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story, said that it was important not to vilify midwives. She said: “It’s ne'er OK to endanger women with societal services implicit a quality of opinion. But I deliberation portion of the occupation is simply a wider civilization of antiaircraft practice, and possibly, for immoderate people, that mightiness propulsion them to marque decisions that are not successful enactment with their nonrecreational obligations.”

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) highlighted the midwife’s relation successful empowering women to marque informed choices during gestation and birth. It said the quality of midwives to pass implications for a peculiar prime was based connected processing trust. But it added: “Serious shortages of midwifes are impacting this ability, with small oregon nary clip to make these important relationships. This is simply a immense interest for the RCM… The world is pressures connected clip and resources means connection is sometimes not arsenic wide arsenic it should beryllium and sadly, immoderate women consciousness their wishes person been ignored.”

The RCM has published guidance for midwives, including connected however to enactment those opting for an unassisted birth. NHS England said it was up to idiosyncratic trusts to enact their ain safeguarding protocols.