TV presenter and mum of two Kirstie Allsopp may have been holidaying halfway up a Swiss mountain this week, but she still found time to keep in touch with her thousands of fans and followers by tweeting. And in doing so she became the focus of yet another almighty public storm.
She brought the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) to task for not offering enough information and advice about Caesareans to pregnant mums - and for making mums who have them feel like utter failures. Kirstie had two Caesareans herself (one emergency, one elective) and as I had two emergencies myself you won't win any prizes for guessing where I stand. On Kirstie's side, naturally.
However, what's great about this whole debacle is that through the power of social networking and the media, Kirstie is highlighting the issues that really matter. Caesareans are on the increase due to a whole host of medical (not just vanity) factors, therefore dismissing every woman who has one as being "too posh to push" is both a fallacy and an insult.
While ranting about the NCT, Kirstie also publically acknowledged her support for the "Save Midwives" campaign. This vital campaign was set up recently, and is just getting into its stride, lobbying support from everyone who see understaffed maternity services as a problem that needs addressing urgently.
It's never been more topical, either. Last week Radio 4 highlighted a shocking new report*, citing the deaths of 35 babies in the West Midlands as "preventable" and laying the blame for this due to midwife services being "understaffed" and "overstretched".
The momentum for change seems to be building. At the recent fertility conference I attended (see Conference rookie blog http://www.jfhc.co.uk/Blog/blog.aspx) a midwife there said she had felt forced to leave midwifery when levels of work became far too pressurised. She rejoined in the 1990s, but after a few years realised nothing had changed, so reluctantly took the decision to leave again.
An elderly neighbour of mine, an ex midwife herself, told me that this problem goes back even further. When she first practiced midwifery in the 1950s morale was low for exactly the same reasons. She also loved midwifery, but felt compelled to apply for a general nursing post, as midwifery pay simply wasn't good enough for the extra hours and stress it all entailed. Many midwives had their own young families to look after, she added, and so the job simply wasn't compatible.
Midwives fully appreciate the nature of their vocation entails long shifts and hard graft. But the expectation they should work above and beyond their statutory hours to prop up an understaffed and under-resourced service not only abuses their goodwill and sense of professionalism, but it puts everyone in their care at risk.
This can't go on any further.
So, please do lend your support to the Save Midwifery campaign at http://twitter.com/#!/savemidwifery. The alternative - an irretrievably broken midwifery service, more babies dying unnecessarily, more families grieving as a result - doesn't bear thinking about. But we can all take inspiration from the Middle East. Therein lies proof that when change is long overdue, ordinary people can make a difference.
Government: take heed. Because for midwives' sake - and for the long-term health of society generally - you can't afford not to.
Penny Hosie 22.2.11 Comment on this blog by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Report by The West Midlands Perinatal Institute. For more background information, click here.