Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Guest blog from WI member Nicola Hatch Lighterness about the new WI report 'Support Overdue (2017)'

WI member, baby blogger, and new mum Nicola Hatch Lighterness, welcomes the publication of the WI’s new report into women’s experiences of maternity care and shares her own story showing why we need more midwives now.

In 2012, WI members voted to start a campaign to push the Government for more midwives. We had heard horror stories about the care of our friends, our sisters, our daughters; we started to suspect that we weren’t alone in our struggles with postnatal depression or breastfeeding; those of working as midwives or support staff had begun to suffer from extreme burn-out. Something needed to change and as the largest women’s organisation in the UK, if we didn't speak up who would?

I joined the WI in 2014 when I was trying to have a baby. By that time the WI had already published a report examining the experiences of women giving birth and over 30,000 members had participated in the campaign. We were making progress. The NHS, citing our report, commissioned a major review of maternity services and the Secretary of State for Health admitted that we needed more midwives. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its first ever safe staffing guidance for maternity settings in 2015, which the WI contributed evidence to and warmly welcomed.

But we are still missing 3,500 midwives in England, a shortage I experienced first-hand. The WI is today publishing a new report – Support Overdue (2017) – which sadly shows that my experience is not unique. The report found that as many as 50% of women will give birth in labour wards today that are short-staffed, leaving many women alone while they are in labour or unable to receive essential care like pain relief.

Being pregnant is a joyful time for many women, but it can also leave us feeling vulnerable. Midwives are often our lifeline, the person that’s standing in our corner, making sure everything is ok and reassuring us when things get tough. So many mums I know speak glowingly of how lovely their midwives were. So what is going wrong?

Well, the WI found that a big part of the problem is fragmented care. With the birth-rate holding steady, and midwife numbers dropping, fewer midwives must care for more women. Midwives are so pressed for time that they are often pulled out of community care and into labour wards. This means that women can see lots of different midwives during their care and never have a chance to build a relationship with any of them!

Unfortunately I know all about this fragmented care, although on paper I was one of the lucky ones. In my local area, it is common practice to see the same midwife all throughout your pregnancy. For someone like me, who suffers from anxiety, this was excellent. I got to know my midwife and she got to know me. This meant that when she had to explain to me the possible complications of the low levels of Papp A that my pregnancy suffered from, she was able to do so in a way that didn't send me into a complete panic! Any test results that she had, she would give me in a reassuring way, and when my blood pressure started to creep up towards the end of my pregnancy and there was the potential for pre-eclampsia, I knew I was in safe hands.

By once my son was born, my care started to break down. Due to an admin error, I had been attending my antenatal appointments in the next town. This was corrected after the birth. All very well and good, except my new midwives, whilst very caring, didn't know me in the same way as my old midwife did.

I saw multiple midwives in my 28 day postnatal care period. I was unable to build a relationship with any of them and they didn't understand my anxiety. They couldn't understand why I would break down in tears during appointments.  They didn't understand why I struggled on with breastfeeding despite hating it, despite it making me feel more depressed. They didn't understand- and didn't anticipate- my constant worry.

All of this was made even worse by the fact that the midwives were too busy to come to my home more than once. I had to walk 30 minutes each way for the rest of my postnatal appointments. For someone with anxiety issues- like me- this was a daunting prospect. In fact, as many as 20% of new mums suffer from some kind of postnatal depression and we’re supposed to be seen during this critical time as often as we need to be. The appointments are also supposed to be at our home or in a location convenient to us. But for me- and all the other new mums in my area- this didn't happen because the midwives, wonderful though they were, didn't have the time.

Travelling to these appointments was difficult for me because I felt like a nervous wreck. I look back at this time now and those feelings of being overwhelmed are enough to stop me from having another child. This is why the WI is recommending that as a bare minimum standard all new mums receive midwife visits in their home at least twice postnatally. This would have helped me so much. Midwives want to do it, but there are not enough of them to go around.

I know we’re fond of saying ‘all’s well that ends well’ and for me it did end well. I got through my difficult postnatal time. But the WI thinks that just ‘getting through’ is not good enough anymore. Nearly three quarters of a million women will use the maternity service every year. These women and their families rely on midwives to be there when it matters. Policy makers need to act now and end the shortage of midwives.

To read Nicola’s baby blog visit: http://allthingsspliced.co.uk/

To learn more about the NFWI’s campaign for More Midwives visit: https://www.thewi.org.uk/campaigns/current-campaigns-and-initiatives/more-midwives

Nicola and other members of Brentwood Belles WI

WI research shows more midwives still needed

Today the WI and NCT have launched our second report into maternity services. Now we need your help to make sure the Government hears our call for more midwives.

The report is the next stage for the More Midwives campaign, which was launched in 2012 after a resolution calling for an end to the shortage of midwives, was passed at the WI Annual Meeting.

While women were generally positive about the care they experienced, we found that the shortage of midwives continues to impact mothers, babies and their families. Despite four years having passed since our first report, our research suggests that little progress has been made in that time.

Shockingly, half of women told us that they had experienced at least one ‘red-flag’ event during childbirth. A red-flag event is a sign that there may not be enough midwives available to give women and babies the care they need. This could mean having to wait more than 30 minutes to get pain relief, or not receiving one-to-one care during labour.

We also found that postnatal care is still failing far too many women. Almost one in five women (18%) did not see a midwife as often as they needed to postnatally. This resulted in delayed diagnoses of health problems at a critical time for mothers and babies.

Almost a third of these women were forced to turn to other parts of the NHS like GPs, walk-in centres or even A&E to get the help they needed. This is simply not sustainable when our NHS services are under such huge pressure.

The vast majority of women (88%) told us that they did not know their midwife before they went into labour or gave birth. This is the same result as we found in our first research report, and suggests that continuity of care remains an aspiration, not a reality.

Marylyn Haines Evans, Public Affairs Chair of the NFWI said:

“The findings from this report show that chronic midwife shortages (an estimated 3,500 in England alone) continue to undermine the delivery of high quality care for women and their families.  Half of the women we spoke to reported red-flag events during their care, suggesting that staffing levels are at crisis point.

“Women have told us that midwives are working hard to do the very best that they can, but that there are simply not enough of them to go around. We are calling on the Government and the NHS to end this chronic midwife shortage immediately and take the necessary steps to ensure midwives are supported to remain in the profession.”

It is clear that we need urgent action to address the shortage of midwives. We now need WI members to write to their MPs and AMs and encourage them to raise the issue with the Government in Westminster and Wales. You can download a template letter here.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Not in my Name Campaign to end violence against women

Guest blog from Ann Jones, Federation of Wales Chair and NFWI Vice Chair

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence started on 25 November (White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and runs until 10 December (Human Rights Day).

Alarmingly, one in four women in Wales will experience domestic abuse at the hands of a partner during their lives, and 150,000 women in Wales will suffer some form of gender-based violence.
As part of the WI’s commitment to ending Violence Against Women (VAW), NFWI-Wales engaged WI members in the Not in My Name Campaign for the fifth year.  Established in 2012 in partnership with anti-violence campaigner Joyce Watson AM, the Campaign involves the recruitment of male ambassadors in speaking out against VAW and making a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about VAW.

To mark White Ribbon Day 2016, NFWI-Wales hosted a stakeholder debate at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff Bay followed by a candlelight vigil at dusk on the steps outside the Assembly. Members from as far afield as mid Wales joined us for the vigil as well as stakeholders such as VAW third sector organisations, Gwent Police, South Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue and members of UNISON.

The heartbreaking stories we heard from domestic abuse survivors at both events will stay in our minds. Their experiences sent a strong message demonstrating why we are involved in this campaign and why we must continue to campaign to end VAW. 
I am encouraged to see Not in my Name gaining strength every year amongst the membership. Candlelight vigils, organised by our members, were held in Carmarthen, Ceredigion and Llandudno as well as a Light a Candle Service in Usk organised annually by Gwent Federation. Pembrokeshire Federation dedicated their Council Meeting to raising awareness about the campaign and federations across Wales forged links with male ambassadors such as rugby clubs, male voice choirs and rotary clubs.

This year, NFWI-Wales launched a prose competition linked to the campaign and I was delighted that members in England as well as Wales took part. Congratulations to the winner Therese Casemore, Llandogo WI, Gwent. Therese’s prose, written from the perspective of a man, was read powerfully by Rhun ap Iorwerth AM at the Candlelight Vigil.

In 2015, the Welsh Government passed the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act. This legislation has the potential to make a huge difference to women’s lives but its implementation must be backed by strong guidance. NFWI-Wales is a member of the Wales VAW Action Group and, as a member of the group, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the Act and play our part in holding the Government to account. We will also continue to use the strong network of the WI to continue to raise awareness about violence against women everywhere.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Introducing the experts…Teresa Wheatley

We have been introducing a range of different experts from WIFE throughout WI Sports Week and this is the last update.  Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from a range of different sports and fitness experts, and you’ve been inspired to try something new.

What do you do?
With almost 25 years of experience in exercise I regularly deliver education and present both nationally and internationally.  I pride myself on combining energy, enthusiasm and expertise all rolled into one and I’m well known for my ability to see and unlock the full potential in others.

How did you get involved?
During my school years I was a bundle of energy and I was always super keen on playing sports and dancing.  After taking a year out to visit Australia I stepped off the return flight and laced up my trainers (almost literally) and started my hugely rewarding career in group exercise by teaching Aerobics.  Since the early 90s when I first qualified I have continued with my education and professional development to a point now where I am regarded now as a specialist in a number of areas and am responsible for educating others within these fields. My working life has never ever felt like work and I feel very fortunate to still love what I do.

Why is sport important to you?
My parents were always hugely sporty and I am grateful to them for instilling that value in me. It is fantastic to have the opportunity to help other parents to be able to give the same gift to their children.

How can more women get involved?
By creating opportunities such as the WI Sports Week there is a greater chance of reaching more people and making sport and fitness more accessible for families. All it takes to find the recipe to your success is a little searching for the secret ingredients which I will be only too happy to provide based on the skills I have acquired over many years of specialising in this area.

Introducing the experts…Vanessa Barker

We will be introducing a range of different experts from WIFE throughout WI Sports Week so make sure you check back in regularly to hear more…

What do you do?
I’m a personal trainer and I specialise in pregnancy and postnatal exercise.

How did you get involved?
I always enjoyed being active, so when I was at university studying English, I went to the local college and qualified as a fitness instructor.  From there I became a personal trainer, and thirteen years later I’m still working in fitness!

Why is sport and exercise important to you?
Having children of my own has made me appreciate the importance and role of exercise pin helping mums make a full recovery after childbirth. I have two children of my own and it’s made me extremely passionate about helping other mums with their postnatal recovery. I’ve been working with mums on their return to fitness since then.

How can more women get involved?
The mothers I work with often feel confused about what exercise is suitable after having a baby, and struggle to find the time to fit it in!  I think education is key- there’s so much pressure to ‘bounce back’, but when you appreciate what has happened to your body and how long it takes to recover, a more holistic and balanced approach is actually far more effective than rushing back to your old exercise routine. And it only takes 10 minutes a day to do the postnatal core routines I give my clients, plus some walking, which can usually coincide with nap time!

Website: http://www.vanessabarker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vanessabarkerpt/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vanessabfitness

Introducing the experts…Pollyanna Hale

We will be introducing a range of different experts from WIFE throughout WI Sports Week so make sure you check back in regularly to hear more…

What do you do? 
I help tired and busy mums get in shape and get their body confidence back from the comfort of their own home with online coaching and support.

How did you get involved? 
I was active from an early age as a dancer, but in my late teens I developed an eating disorder and through being so unwell and unhappy, I discovered the incredible value of having good physical and mental health.  I became passionate about healthy eating and exercise, but when I had children I found that a lack of friendly resources for mothers was the reason why many of us can’t access the support we need.  So I developed my own system that fits into the life of even the busiest mum.

Why is sport and exercise important to you? 
The connection between mental and physical health is profound.  Women come to me wanting to lose weight and tone up, and whilst I make sure that is achieved, what they aren’t expecting is how happy and content they then feel, and how much new confidence they have, not only with their body but the self-belief that they can achieve something they put their mind to.

How can more women get involved? 
Media pressure has made women believe they have to do everything perfectly for it to work, which is unattainable and prevents people from getting started.  I try to show my clients that it really doesn’t matter if your meal isn’t Instagram-worthy – keeping it simple and focusing on the things that really matter makes healthy living so much easier.

Website: www.thefitmumformula.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thefitmumformula
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FitMumFormula

Introducing the experts…Hannah Epps

We will be introducing a range of different experts from WIFE throughout WI Sports Week so make sure you check back in regularly to hear more…

What do I do?
I teach Pilates and run a small private Pilates studio specialising in women’s wellness mainly classes, mat and equipment and one to one training to relieve back pain, improve Pelvic Floor Fitness, stretching and trigger point release.  I’ma  level 3 CYQ Pilates mat and equipment teacher, a “Pure Stretch” and “Your Pelvic Matters” qualified coach and I encourage daily movement.  Many of my clients are so busy so if they can’t attend classes, my website has videos, online classes and short e-courses. To help get deeper into specific issues, I also run workshops and retreats to make sure we are sociable and approachable so that clients feel relaxed to learn and discuss personal body issues and exercises with me.

How and why did I get involved? 
I have worked in business as a head-hunter and event organiser since 1992, commuting 3 hours to London, sitting all day, running corporate lunches and evenings, and I realised I was sluggish and unhappy.  When 9/11 happened in 2001, I was in the office in London and my attitude and life completely changed.  I decided to hand in my notice, and I became a local Marketing Manager of a Sports Centre in 2001, and I started attending a Pilates class.

I fell in love with the gentle movement and how it made me feel, as it was so much harder than it looks.  After my first baby, I had the car accident in 2004 and Pilates helped not just to get my body stronger but also helped my rehabilitation.  Whilst pregnant with my second daughter, I had had enough of working long hours and I wanted to spend more time with my daughters, and understand how Pilates was helping my back and reducing hip pain, so I trained to become a Pilates teacher and I’ve never looked back.

Why is sport and exercise important to you? 
Pilates is amazing, but I balance it with other forms exercise such as dancing, walking, groups classes and running with my dog.  I know the impact and speed of some fast aerobic classes has made me overuse of some muscles and the pelvic floor pounding means the slow movement and stretching in Pilates is essential for me to isolate the right muscles and focus on my inner core.  This helps support, mobilise my spine and receive my painful achy hip and knee joints.  My posture was very bad after having children and when I work on the laptop, but Pilates helps me work my weak muscles and helps remind me in daily life to draw in my tummy muscles, lift up and lengthen through my spine.  My tummy isn’t perfect but Pilates works my core muscles so they are more toned and stronger to support my back.

Pilates helps strengthen my weak Pelvic floor and tummy and I find Pilates is great for my older clients who have had hip or knee replacement or injuries or sciatica, arthritis, osteoporosis.  It also improves their balance to help prevent falls: a third of all people over 65 fall each year – 3 million people.

I find Pilates very calming in my busy life with a chaotic family and social life and I can get more stressed post menopause as cortisol levels are higher so relaxation and meditation at the end of a class is essential help me create balance.  I swear by my morning Pilates and stretch routine to get me up and moving as I truly believe that you are as young as you feel, so keep your joints moving.

How can more women get involved?
Find a local class - Pilates is so popular for men and women now that classes are run everywhere and remember that although it looks easy, it is important to learn the basics in a beginner’s class or a one-to-one session first.  Good teachers will have a lesson plan but will adapt the exercises to a lower level or appropriate for any injuries that you might have, and a class is more sociable and should always be fun!  You may even make friends through your class – many of my students go for a coffee or drink after class.

Another way to learn is from online videos or courses, or through my website where I have online back care courses.  You can do this in the privacy of your home on your own if you are not confident (but you must check you are doing it right), or involve your family and do it together.

I really encourage my clients to do ten minutes every morning and give daily morning schedules for them as simple exercises, stretches or changing bad posture habits helps your body stay young.  So if you have a persistent back pain or aches and pains or weak pelvic floor that puts you off exercising please contact me, I’m very happy to give you a morning schedule right for you or to help answer questions.

Whatever you decide is right for you MOVE, ENJOY it and MAKE IT PART OF YOUR LIFE!

Website - www.farnhampilates.com
Facebook - https://m.facebook.com/farnhampilates
Twitter - http://twitter.com/farnhampilates