birthrightsBirthrights, the UK's only organisation dedicated to improving women's experiences of pregnancy and childbirth by promoting respect for human rights, launched in London last week and was well attended by key figures across maternity and women's health.

Founder and chair Elizabeth Prochaska said, "as a barrister specialising in human rights my own experience of pregnancy and birth made me aware that our rights in childbirth are often forgotten, particularly when women are from vulnerable groups. Birthrights will seek to tackle this, forging close relationships with midwives, doctors and their professional bodies to promote and protect these rights. Our newly launched website (birthrights.org.uk) also provides clear and easy to understand information for women and their partners to ensure they are aware of their rights and know how to ensure they are respected. The law is very clear on many issues that women and their caregivers are currently facing. We will use it is a powerful tool for change."

The organisation, currently run by volunteers and reliant on donations, has been overwhelmed by the huge response to the launch. Co-chair Rebecca Schiller added, "we are delighted by the positive reactions from women, midwives, doctors and campaigners. Our launch is timely. With so much focus on the rising birth-rate and the strain on maternity services, the negative impact this can have on women has never been clearer. Birthrights will be campaigning for respect for women's rights during pregnancy and birth. By respecting these rights an investment in the maternity services can be made without any financial cost. Without this investment women's physical and psychological health are at risk.”

New mother Clare Connerton, 30 from Whitstable, described Birthrights as, "a vital organisation providing clarity and advice to women and the professionals who care for them."

She added, "My own recent experiences of giving birth have highlighted just how deep an imprint women's experiences of pregnancy and birth leave on them. Three years ago, when my first baby was born, there were times when my wishes were ignored and when I felt abandoned and bullied by my care providers. I was shouted at by people I needed to be kind to me and denied an epidural for hours. Despite also meeting some wonderful midwives, his birth was a traumatic experience for me."

“Last month I had my second baby. This time I was better informed. I knew that I had a fundamental right to insist that those around me respected my wishes. Because of this I sought out senior midwives to talk to when others weren't supporting my choice to give birth at home and was able to access the care I needed. This time my care was based on giving me good information, respecting my decisions and treating me with dignity. Though my second baby was 11lb 2 ozs at birth he was born swiftly at home. 
Posted 31/1/13 by pennyhosie@pavpub.com