Some old-fashioned thinking

11th February 2013

I’m not sure what it is about period dramas – maybe it’s the rosy nostalgic glow that they paint of times gone by – but they sure can spark a trend. A few years ago everyone was donning 1960s power dress when Mad Men hit our screens, and last autumn’s catwalk shows looked to the elegant fashions worn by the women of Downton Abbey for inspiration.

But now the RCM is hoping the success of another period drama, BBC One’s Call the Midwife, may lead to another new trend among UK women. Thankfully, it’s not envisaging them rushing out and buy a maroon cardigan, or a pair of NHS-issue spectacles (I don’t think Nonnatus House-chic would catch on anyway). Instead it's predicting that they will be emulating the women of the 1950s East End by giving birth at home.

Not all Call the Midwife viewers will share the RCM’s optimism; the programme often shows the grim reality of the area the midwives worked in, with births taking place in cramped flats in crumbling tower blocks, where women are lying on flimsy mattresses lined with newspaper. Why would anyone want to labour in those conditions instead of in the comfort of a clean, modern hospital?

Yet the RCM has a point; once you see past the 1950s setting, Call the Midwife does, overall, paint a positive picture of home birth. The professionalism of the midwives, and the compassion they show to the women in their care, shines through every time there’s an on-screen birth. Even when things get dramatic – who can forget the episode in the first series where Chummy successfully managed a breech birth singlehandedly – the mothers never think twice about their decision to give birth in their own homes under the supervision of the ‘Nonnatuns’.

Hygiene standards in birthing environments have come a long way since Jennifer Worth was practising in Poplar. In fact, giving birth at home has never been safer than it is now. So perhaps we will see more women take inspiration from Call the Midwife – after all, if the East End women could have a safe home birth all those years ago, then a low-risk modern-day mother can too.

Comments

yes indeed, the numbers of home births will no doubt increase despite 'Call the Midwife' (which I love!).  With an increasing birth rate and the impending crisis facing Independent Midwives whose home birth rates are huge (mine over 70%) there will be more pressure on the NHS to deliver what women truly want.  

yes indeed, the numbers of home births will no doubt increase despite 'Call the Midwife' (which I love!).  With an increasing birth rate and the impending crisis facing Independent Midwives whose home birth rates are huge (mine over 70%) there will be more pressure on the NHS to deliver what women truly want.  

I would be really pleased to see anything raising the home birth rate as we all know the implications that this would have on women. Let us hope it has a positive impact on staffing also.

Poppy where do you practice if you don't mind me asking? 70% is fantastic!

 

I love Call the Midwife too. I can remember a time early in my career when paperwork was minimal and midwifery practice was an art learned by following the example of wise midwives who knew how to truly be 'with woman'.

Sadly, consultant led units all too often seem to operate within the constraints of dictatorial 'guidelines' which rule supreme to perpetuate interventional defensive practice. Let's hope home birth does become more popular for that offers midwives more scope to learn the art of assisting women in childbirth and seeing it for what it is....a remarkable, normal, natural process.

Unfortunately, HB requires more midwives to deliver the service safely and despite continuing publicity saying as much, we still struggle on providing an out of hours service based largely on goodwill.

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