Your Rights in Pregnancy and Birth

AIMS (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services) are pleased to announce the third book in their Guide series: The AIMS Guide to Your Rights in Pregnancy & Birth. This replaces their book ‘Am I Allowed?’. I’m a big fan of AIMS’ work, and not just because they published my Water Birth article last year!

I haven’t read a copy as it’s not published yet, so I do need to caveat this recommendation. But everything AIMS produces is well researched and evidenced, so I have no doubts this will be of high quality.

Their blurb:

“Not only does this book provide clear information about your rights in pregnancy and birth, but provides the tools to assert those rights.”

The book is currently available for pre-order so that you get a copy hot off the press in November.

Asserting your Rights

In terms of rights in pregnancy, Birthrights are also very good for information and they’re currently looking for people who would be interested in legally challenging visitor restrictions in maternity services at their local Trust. You could be in the early stages of pregnancy and concerned about the fact that your partner will not be with you during scans or at other crucial points during your maternity care.

You could also be a partner who is keen to be at their loved one’s side. Or you could already have been affected by the restrictions, for example, having received bad news on your own, having asked for your partner to be there. You are unlikely to receive financial compensation, but Birthrights will ensure your legal costs are covered. To find out more with no commitment you can contact them at [email protected]

Making Decisions

If you’re trying to make decisions, it’s always worth remembering that everything suggested to you is an offer. You’re only being offered treatment, you don’t have to accept it, if you don’t want it! (It may not seem like it at times, but it’s your body and your decisions to make). It’s also helpful to use the BRAIN acronym to make sure you’re getting all the information you need.

Front cover of The AIMS Guide to Your Rights in Pregnancy and Birth

Patient and Public Engagement

Let’s talk about PPE. No, not *that* PPE, I’m talking about Patient and Public Engagement, also known as PPI – Patient and Public Involvement!

I’m pleased to announce that lately, organisations have been approaching BigBirthas to get involved in projects at the planning stage. This is great news!!

It is no longer acceptable (why was it ever?) for organisations; bosses, politicians, researchers, and healthcare professionals to make decisions about us, without us. People in positions of power, if you’re not asking about our lived experience, if you’re not listening to our stories, in whose name are you working? Are you really the experts here?

These sorts of scenes are just not acceptable:

Engaging with your audience (or representatives of it) at the outset has some very tangible benefits.

  • There’s a good chance that if you’ve overlooked something, service users will spot it. It’s our lives you’re talking about after all, and we’re literally the experts!
  • You can get the language right. You’re much less likely to draft something patronising, presumptuous, implausible, or antagonistic if it’s co-written/proofread by members of the intended audience.
  • You’ll understand what’s important to us; what floats our boat and what gets our goat. If your clients connect with what you’re saying, they’re more likely to listen. Honestly, if you want us to listen to you, it’s only reasonable that you hear us too!
  • Getting the language and tone right in documents encourages staff to do the same in their interactions.
  • Engaging with your audience at the earliest stages means you’re asking the right questions at the outset.

I’ve read so many hospital policies and research where it’s clear no representation was present at planning, drafting, or proofreading stage! It’s very easy for phrasing to become ‘us and them’, paternalistic, and ‘we know best’ in style when you’re external to the group in question. There are very few people for whom that approach yields the best engagement! Even worse, that language feeds into the psyche of those acting on your words.

How to find your audience

Therefore, if you want to do best by your clients, you need to get your audience involved, preferably as early as possible in the project. But how do you recruit your service users? If you’ve tried putting up posters and putting a link on your website and that’s not getting you anywhere, what next?

Reach out.

Former service users may have even more insight than current ones, but are less likely to see your invitation. If it’s too costly to contact previous service users directly, could you advertise in baby and toddler groups, with health visitors as well as maternity clinics? What about maternity voices partnerships?

Are the service users you do engage sufficiently representative of the diversity of your clients? Do you need to try thinking more out of the box to reach more of the people you should be speaking and listening to?

Have you considered why people aren’t engaging? Are you offering expenses or any incentive for people to give you their time and effort? Is it something super simple like the time you’re trying to connect? Avoid daytimes and particularly the school run, provide creche facilities, or reimbursement for childcare. For in person meetings, make sure parking is good and preferably free, and there are good public transport links.

Are you clear about what you’re asking/offering, and who the work will benefit?

If You Represent An Organisation

Big Birtha is always happy to give an opinion, and is on several advisory and oversight committees already. If you want more than one person’s input (you really should!) we have a BigBirthas Facebook Group of 300+ members, from which you could recruit participants. Or if you just want to ask a few general questions, and sound out some ideas we could facilitate a Q&A style open meeting and see what happens. We’re passionate about this stuff, and changing maternity services for the better, so you’re likely to get some great engagement!

Just get in touch via the Contact Big Birtha link. Explain what you’re up to and we can discuss how Big Birthas can get involved to help you make your next project as engaging as it can be, which is in all of our best interests.

H&M Plus-Size Maternity

Preface: this was written before the covid-19 situation reared its head. (I try to release something every 3 weeks, and like to have articles scheduled for release several weeks/months in advance!) but then I kept ‘bumping’ it because it seemed frivolous and there were other things to tell you. I’m still really happy to report that there’s now a H&M plus-size maternity range. Maternity? Plus-size? In a high street store!?

It still seems a bit frivolous for the current climate, but the high street is opening up again, and if you need clothes, you need clothes! Goodness knows, my children seem to have grown out of all theirs! So anyway, here’s the article. If you’re looking for maternity wear right now, it might be useful!

***

I’ve complained before several times about the lack of plus-size maternity options. I even wrote an article on how to work within ‘standard’ clothing ranges for a fashionable maternity wardrobe if you’re bigger.

I recently saw an advert that H&M had started offering maternity clothes – but I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. The last high street range I saw was only offering a handful of plus-sized options and they were super bland. Searching online today, I discovered 205 items sized 2XL in the H&M plus-size maternity range! And not just plain leggings and a shirt! Woohoo!

Now, before I get too excited, I’m looking forward to hearing feedback on the cut, fit, quality etc. but for now, I’m just happy that another large retailer has decided we’re a group they want to cater for. Representation matters! With fashion, more options and more choice can only be a good thing.

We now just need them to hire models who are a bit more representative of the range of sizes of their customers, but this is a good start!

Your experiences and opinions are needed!

Hi lovely people! It seems I’m inviting you to take part in research once again! This time, your experiences and opinions are needed by Queen’s University Belfast. The researchers want to know people’s views on excess weight in today’s society.

They’re particularly interested in hearing from people who’ve been pregnant.

If you’re experiencing research survey fatigue, I apologise! It’s a really positive sign how far we’ve come that researchers aren’t just looking into issues around high BMI, but we’re regularly asked questions about our views on the subject too.

I advocate getting involved in as much research as possible that looks at our experiences, and gives us a platform. This is why I regularly publicise research on here.

As I see it, the only way to effect change is to make our voices heard. Your experiences and opinions are needed so the people making decisions know what’s really happening, and what we think about it! Change is slow in coming, but it is coming, and you can help make it happen!

Queen's University Belfast logo - Your experiences and opinions are needed!

Here’s the blurb:

Your experiences of having excess weight in today’s society

Have you ever had excess weight? Would you like to share your experiences and opinions?

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast invite you to complete a questionnaire about your experiences of excess weight and your opinions on different terms used to describe weight/size.

We are looking for men and women who are over 18 years old to complete the questionnaire. We are also particularly interested to hear about the experiences of women who are or have been pregnant.

Please click on the link below to find out more about it and to complete the questionnaire: https://qubpublichealth.fra1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2nUDx0DJGg8kFKZ.

They say the survey should take about 15 minutes.

Image courtesy of the World Obesity Federation
Image courtesy of the World Obesity Forum

Are You A Researcher?

Are you looking to publicise your study, or trying to find participants?

BigBirthas.co.uk is always happy to publicise relevant research on the topics of BMI and pregnancy.

Are you struggling with working out what terminology to use? Do you want to check you’re not missing something with the people your research actually concerns? Want to just check your thoughts and assumptions with some people with lived experience of the thing you’re studying?

If you’d like to run a focus group, we can help with that via the BigBirthas Facebook group.

It’s a friendly, welcoming space for people to discuss the issues surrounding higher BMI pregnancy. There’s healthcare professionals and doulas on board, as well as people who are, have been, or would like to be pregnant. We’re also happy to facilitate Q&A sessions. It’s generally better if these happen in the evening once children are (theoretically at least) in bed!

If you’re looking for members of an oversight committee or similar, we can probably help with that too. Lots of our members have experience with conducting research!

You can get in touch via the Contact BigBirtha page.