Maternity Action has launched a new campaign to defend maternity rights and protect maternity services called Valuing Maternity.

The charity was set up with the aim to end inequality and promote the health and well-being of all pregnant women, their partners and children from before conception through to the child's early years.

Maternity Action explained that they believe a campaign is needed more than ever because pregnant women and new mothers are facing a tough time in the recession, with maternity benefits [being] cut or means tested and services reduced at a time when the number of births is growing.

The charity also cites recent public criticism of maternity rights, which they believe has given employers the confidence to treat women badly, as well as flout the law which should protect women's jobs. They also believe that changing maternity leave arrangements may put pressure on women to return to work early.

The charity said: "We need the Government to champion pregnant women and new mothers, not make life more difficult.

"Don't introduce a new maternity and parental leave scheme which reduces rights for women, reduces family incomes and which few fathers will take-up. Start pulling employers into line when they do the wrong thing by pregnant women and new mothers. Stop cuts to NHS maternity services and services for families. The need for support is growing, not shrinking.

"Pregnant women and new mothers are carrying the burden of the recession. That's not right. It is time we started valuing maternity."

The charity is calling for:

■Job security for all women during pregnancy and maternity

■Maternity and parental leave that promotes real equality

■Services to support a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Commenting on the launch of Maternity Action's Valuing Maternity Campaign , the Royal College of Midwives' Chief Executive Officer and General Secretary Cathy Warwick said: "We welcome and fully support Maternity Action's campaign.

"It is an innovative and ambitious campaign with its focus on maternity services, job security and pregnancy discrimination.

"I believe it will be a ground-breaking campaign, enhanced by interactive tools to encourage women to tell their stories and find out about their rights. We share Maternity Action's concerns about maternity services and we look forward to working and campaigning with them."

"We know many women are not currently getting one-to-one midwifery care in labour or choice of place of birth. We also know many women do not always get the best care at the vital time after the birth of their baby, especially once they go home. We need this information from women using maternity services.

"The RCM has been saying for a long time that without real and sustained investment in midwives, change is hard to achieve. Our view is that in order to deliver high-quality maternity care for mothers and babies proposed by the Government we need 5,000 more midwives."

The campaign to recruit 5,000 more NHS midwives in the UK currently stands at 58,715 signatures. The RCM needs over 40,000 more before the 22nd August 2012 in order to reach the "magic total" of 100,000 which will allegedly spark a parliamentary debate. To add your signature to the petition visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13716

For more information on the Valuing Maternity campaign visit "http://valuingmaternity.org/about-us/

Posted by Penny Hosie