The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on birth trauma I co-chair has now launched an inquiry to ensure care for new mums improves dramatically.
Already the government has responded to this campaign with several key announcements in last month’s Women’s Health Strategy.
Comprehensive physical care for those who experience serious tears during childbirth will be rolled out by March. Specialist maternal mental health services will also be available to women in every part of England by March. New mums will receive a comprehensive check up with their GP within eight weeks, focused solely on her mental and physical health.
However, from my own experience of birth trauma following the birth of my daughter in 2022 and the experience of brave mums who have contacted me after I launched this campaign, there is still much to do.
My own story is sadly not unusual but it has had a profound effect and driven my desire to improve care for new mums in my role as an MP. I suffered a third-degree tear after 40 hours of labour and had emergency surgery after I started bleeding heavily. It was the most terrifying moment of my life as I was wheeled into an operating theatre just at the moment I wanted to hold my daughter in my arms. The brilliant medical team saved my life but not all the care I received was good.
Afterwards, back on a ward, I rang a bell to get help because my daughter was crying and I was unable to move. A woman came in and simply said, ‘not my baby, not my problem’. It was unacceptable.
Later I began to understand that what had happened to me was not a priority and that often the focus was on the baby and not the mum even if they had suffered mental and/or physical trauma. I believe mum and baby need to be treated more as a package, especially in those first months.
There remain safety concerns in maternity units that we are all too familiar with following many incidents across the country. Staffing remains an issue too and the government is responding with more money to recruit midwives but pressures remain.
There also needs to be cultural change so that more compassion as well as support and help comes forward for new mums who are often scared, in pain and possibly suffering mental anguish in the hours and days after a traumatic birth. I would never want any new mum to hear someone say to them they simply didn’t care because they were not looking after their baby.
The fact is women’s health has too often been a taboo subject in society and certainly within parliament and government. I am happy to change that with the help of brilliant organisations like the Birth Trauma Association and Mumsnet and my co-chair Rosie Duffield MP. I have even held the first ever parliamentary debate on birth trauma and I will continue to highlight it whenever I can.
The inquiry then is a big part of this. It will take place throughout February and March. Its aim is to collate evidence to the government for practical and achievable recommendations aimed at further improving care and support for new mothers and their partners.
It will hear evidence from doctors, experts, campaigners but most importantly from mums. I want mums from across the country to get in touch with their experiences and views. We have much more to do to make further progress and those experiences are so important.
The call for evidence can be found at: www.theo-clarke.org.uk/birth-trauma
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