(Photo Credit - Hayes Squared Photography)
Last week we announced that we are launching our MERABI Power Women series. A monthly feature where we will interview inspiring women from all different industries with the goal of inspiring you and showing you what is possible when you believe in something.
This month our MERABI POWER WOMEN are Georgia Allan and Sheridan Thomas, founders of MyMidwives and they are our Power Women because they inspire, encourage and give women the mental strength to feel confident in having a natural home birth. Their work goes against the fear factor of giving birth and they teach you that this is a positive and beautiful moment in any mothers life. Their success rates are incredible - delivering 86% of home births successfully, compared to a national average of 2% and they offer fully insured antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care in the North West of England.
With the current issues and with racial inequality being highlighted in the press they have felt that now is the right time to speak up about what they have studied with racism in their profession, especially around the staggering statistic that black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth. With this in mind they have announced their MyMidwivesInitiative where the goal is to tackle the systematic racism which permeates our society at every level, therefore must have an impact on maternity care. They are doing this by having what can be uncomfortable discussions and educating through workshops at universities and hospitals.
(Sheridan - left, Georgia - right)
Q.. Hi girls, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, to start with can you please tell me about how my midwives came about?
A.. We trained together as student midwives and ended up at the same company, an NHS commissioned service free at the point of entry.
You’re on call so you buddy up another midwife, we were buddied up and so when we set up MyMidwives we were already really close and used to working with each other. Sadly, service lost funding almost overnight. We found out after an all-night labour on Monday that as of the Wednesday we had no job. We still had women in our care and they were our priority so within two days we had set up MyMidwives, a personal midwifery service to ensure we could still care for our women. We believe that women should have 100% continuity care however this isn't available in standard maternity care.
Q..Two days! That's amazing, can you tell me a bit more about what you do?
A.. We care for women from pregnancy to six weeks postnatal, women are usually discharged on day ten after only three visits but we find the extra time to be so valuable and that's where the least funding is currently. We are also perinatal mental health specialists and give support for breastfeeding. We specialise in home births but can also accompany in hospital, birth support and occasionally clinical care. Our home birthing rate is 86% compared to a national average of 2% and we have a 91% breastfeeding initiation rate with 84% of mothers choosing to continue breastfeeding after six weeks.
Q..Fascinating, I know you're launching a campaign around Black Lives Matter, please can you talk us through it?
A.. We have both taken our masters and as part of that we looked into the maternity death rates of black women and black babies, typically this has always been blamed on poverty or a lack of education. When we looked into this further we found that socioeconomic status didn't have much of an impact - a well educated and healthy black woman was still more likely to die than a poor white woman who smokes.
The MBRRACE report states that black women were five times more likely to die. There is no protective factor to stop black women from dying and this is where we found a massive gap in the research. We want to work with students and healthcare professionals to understand the lived experiences of black women accessing maternity care and what we can do to overcome the issues. Misunderstandings of the needs of black people are not always a conscious process,
for example, research has shown that in some healthcare settings, there has been the misrepresentation that black people have a higher pain threshold so there are instances of clinical issues not being identified. We are both trained in the role of the professional midwifery advocate and want to take a restorative approach to supporting midwives and student midwives. There are systemic and institutional issues that can affect woman accessing care but midwives and student midwives are the best-placed people to create positive change for these women's experiences. We need to work together to have these uncomfortable discussions, reflect and work towards the future.
Q.. Wow, so what are you doing to educate people and have these conversations?
A.. We will be hosting workshops at hospitals with student midwives and universities. It's something that we are doing in our own time a but we are trying to secure funding for this.
Q..That's amazing and so inspirational - but HOW? You must be so busy already and these materials and travelling etc costs money
A.. We are fundraising through selling affirmation candles, we use these to prepare a birth space and affirmations to increase self-confidence. We have a black candle where all proceeds will be going towards the campaign. We are looking at other fundraising options too as the demand has been so great - we have been contacted by so many different people who want us to host these workshops. It's so important for us to reach as many people as possible and it's completely necessary that we must all do better.
Q..It certainly is! Thank you so much to you both, that work is incredible. And finally, what women inspire you?
A..We inspire each other and push each other to be better every day. To be honest we're surrounded by inspirational women in our social circles, always cheering us on and giving us that last push we need sometimes. A lot of them have their own businesses too so we all understand and support each other.
Q..Love that answer, we're all about women lifting each other, we wish you all the luck in the world with it, it's so important and the difference you can make through education and spreading the message is huge.
To buy an affirmation candle and support this campaign click here
To learn more about MyMidwives click here
And to follow them on Instagram click here