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Ignore the vitriol-doctors are the key to safe childbirth

Ignore the vitriol-doctors are the key to safe childbirth

It’s not every day you’re published in The Sunday Times. But today was that day. I had never written a letter to the Editor before but this article really got under my skin.

 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/top-midwife-doctors-hopeless-at-childbirth-b0kj809l0

Caroline Flint, who is the former president of the Royal College of Midwives no less, was reported as saying that doctors are “hopeless at childbirth”. Her solution? To “get rid of half of the obstetricians”.

Now, as someone who needed extensive intervention from obstetrics this really got my goat. Is that even a saying? In fact, had it not been for the obstetrics myself, and my son, may well not be here today. Damn those pesky doctors.

This isn’t to undermine midwives. In fact, those that cared for me after I went into labour at 25 weeks were nothing short of fantastic. There is no way any of them would have advocated for a “natural birth” at the expense of the health of mother and baby. 

Yet here is a leader of their profession, Flint, saying that “midwives know women can give birth perfectly happily if they are encouraged and supported”. Frankly, it was irresponsible of The Sunday Times to give her such a platform. Women need to know that requiring intervention from doctors during childbirth isn’t a failure on their part. And that it may be lifesaving for them and their baby. 

Such strides have been made in learning from the scandal at Morecambe Bay and it is so disappointing to see a small group of vocal midwives still propogating their views that a natural birth must be pursued, at any cost.

So. Here’s was my response to the Editor. It turns out my colleagues must have felt as strongly as I did as 1600 of them signed the letter. An edited version was published in the end which can be found in the link below.

I think it’s important we continue to challenge this rhetoric. Nothing is more important than the safety of mothers and their babies during childbirth. 

Sir, I was appalled to read such frankly dangerous vitriol from Caroline Flint, the former President of the Royal College of Midwives [Top midwife: Doctors ‘hopeless at childbirth’ March 18th]. No mother should ever be made to feel like a failure for requiring medical intervention during childbirth, which could quite possibly be life-saving for both baby and mother. It appears very little has been learnt here following the tragic deaths at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, where an investigation found that a small group of midwives were contributing to unsafe deliveries due to their desire to see women give birth without medical interventions “at any cost”.

We, as doctors, recognise that such a fringe view is not held by the majority of midwives, who are truly expert and work closely with us. Flint’s comments appear completely out of touch with the ethos of a modern multi-disciplinary team; instead of promoting dangerous and outdated views that lack evidence, perhaps she would do better to use her platform to foster a spirit of close co-operation, recognising the importance of working together to ensure that babies are delivered into this world as safely as possible.

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