It’s no secret that the UK is in the midst of a midwife crisis. Just last week it was announced that more UK midwives are now leaving the profession than joining it. A recent study, meanwhile, has found that this chronic shortage has had an overwhelmingly negative effect on their birthing experience: the majority of women in labour have said that they feel unsafe, frightened, or as if they are being treated “like cattle”.
Now, in a powerful post on thebirthhub.co.uk, one midwife has decided to reach out to these women and say sorry.
In the open letter, the midwife – who has chosen to remain anonymous – apologises for the fact that clinics are running over due to staff shortages, that so many women are forced to see a different midwife at each appointment, and that she only has the time to “offer advice and support in two minute snippets”.
“I’m sorry that I see so many women on each shift that I sometimes forget your name and end up referring to your bed number,” she adds. “I swore I would never reduce women to numbers when I was a student.”
The midwife goes on to apologise for not being her “usual, patient, smiling self”, explaining that this is due to the fact that she is sometimes “so exhausted” that she is “unable to mask” her own tiredness.
Above all else, she says, she is “sorry that the failings of the government to adequately fund and support the NHS means I’m often too stretched and stressed to give you my absolute best.”
And yet, despite all of these regrets, the letter ends on a beautifully empowering note.
“I care,” says the midwife. “I care about you, even when I’m not able to adequately show it.”
She goes on to call upon women everywhere to remember that “midwife means ‘with woman’” and that they need to remind the government of this “millennia-old partnership”, before their “historical bonds” are “forever broken”.
“We must demand change,” she says. “We must demand our rights. We must demand better.
“I will not stop talking about it, I will not stop fighting for it, and I will not let this system break me, no matter how close to the edge it pushes me. And for that I am NOT sorry.”
The letter (which has been shared over 7,000 times on Facebook) comes shortly after the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) calculated that the gap between the amount of midwives the NHS in England requires and the amount it now has will not be closed until 2026.
This shortfall is sure to force maternity units to close suddenly and result in some mothers receiving inadequate care before, during or after giving birth, according to experts.
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Speaking to The Guardian, Louise Silverton, the director for midwifery at the RCN, said the report should be a “red flag event for this government”.
She said: “The fact that half of women have experienced a red flag event is hugely worrying. It is a sign of services under too much pressure, with too few resources and not enough staff.”
Images: iStock/Rex Features