About Birth Companions
Birth Companions is unlike any other charity. We provide support to vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers who are, have been or are at risk of being detained. We deliver our services in prison and in the community in the greater London area.
PRESS RELEASE MAY 26TH
Launch of the Birth Charter for pregnant women and new mothers in prison in England and Wales
Birth Companions, a charity specialising in the support of pregnant women and new mothers in prison, launches its new Birth Charter today (26 May), providing comprehensive recommendations for Government and the Prison Service on improving care for the 600 pregnant women and 100 new mothers held in prisons in England and Wales each year.
Drawing on 20 years of research and experience, the charity, which also works with women on release from prison, and others facing severe disadvantage during this crucial period in their lives, is highlighting good practice, but also inconsistencies and failures to meet with national and international legislation to protect the health and well-being of pregnant women and new mothers in prison.
The Birth Charter has been developed to help inform the Government’s ongoing review of the treatment of these vulnerable women and their babies, and to improve current practice across the Prison Service, on aspects ranging from antenatal care and birthing partners to breastfeeding, family visits and counselling.
Naomi Delap, Director of Birth Companions, says:
“As the ongoing interest in the Archers storyline highlights so starkly, many pregnant women and new mothers in prison are incredibly vulnerable, yet despite several pieces of national and international legislation protecting their health and well-being, many do not get the care and support to which they and their babies are entitled. David Cameron’s review is very welcome, particularly as we know that pregnancy and giving birth can be a catalyst for positive change in women’s lives. Although there are lots of examples of good work, there are also inconsistencies and short-comings that must be addressed urgently, so we’ve developed the Birth Charter, with input from a wide range of professionals and service users. We have focused attention on the elements that have the biggest practical impact to ensure these women get the support they need, and are able to give their children the best possible start in life.”
Alongside the Birth Charter, Birth Companions is calling on the Government to create a much-needed Prison Service Order to help the Prison Service provide consistent, humane care for women like Rebecca, one of Birth Companions’ service users.
Rebecca, who gave birth while serving a three year sentence, explains:
“Being pregnant in prison was a very lonely and dark time in my life – no one to feel your baby kicking except for other inmates. When I was eight months pregnant and had to go for a late scan, I was handcuffed on my way to the appointment – it was so degrading, people looking at you and judging you. It was the worst feeling in the world.
“While I was in labour I had two prison officers at the end of my bed. I was having difficulties, which I am sure was partly because I was so stressed by having them there. My mum, dad and partner had to travel 100 miles to get to me. If the birth companion hadn’t been there, it would have just been me and the officers in the room. I was moved to a Mother and Baby Unit, which had an outside garden so at last I could feel the sunlight. I could express milk and store it in the prison freezer. I breastfed my daughter for a whole year and I’m currently breastfeeding my son, which I’m so pleased I could do.”
Naomi Delap, Director of Birth Companions, added:
“Providing the right support for pregnant women and new mums in prison is a complex issue, requiring careful and balanced consideration. Some 100 babies are born in prison each year, and while we support the Government’s commitment to exploring community-based alternatives to detention, we mustn’t overlook the valuable support provided in prison-based Mother and Baby Units. We have real concerns about the capacity for Community Rehabilitation Companies and Probation Services to deliver that same level of support.”
The Birth Charter is supported by the Royal College of Midwives and has been produced with guidance from UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative
Commenting, the Royal College of Midwives Chief Executive (RCM), Cathy Warwick says:
“It doesn’t matter where mothers and babies are – they must all be given the highest standards of care to promote their health and wellbeing.
“The RCM is proud to support the Birth Charter, which outlines the rights and unique needs of pregnant women, mothers and babies who are in prison.
“The RCM fully supports the recommendations for Government and the Prison Service, which if implemented in full, will make a massive difference to the quality of care women receive and help create a culture whereby all babies are given the best start in life.”
Programme Director of UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative, Sue Ashmore, says:
“To protect the rights and welfare of innocent babies born in prison, mothers must receive the same support with feeding and bonding as they would in the community. The Birth Charter gives a much-needed voice to pregnant women and new mothers in prison, helping to ensure that no baby is punished for being born in detention.”A copy of the Birth Charter can be downloaded Here
It means a lot to Birth Companions to know that people support what we do. Being able to show government and policy makers that the public are behind the recommendations laid out in the Birth Charter will help our ability to influence for change.
If you would like to show your support for the Birth Charter please sign up Here.
Follow @Brthcompanions on Twitter for updates and use the #BirthCharter hashtag.
To arrange interviews with spokespeople and service users, please contact Kate Beard at Amazon PR on 020 7700 6952 or email email@example.com
The women we support often face a range of issues and challenges including mental health problems, substance misuse, a history of domestic and sexual violence, trafficking, experience of detention and human rights violations overseas. They are particularly vulnerable during their pregnancies due to the effects of poor health, poverty, lack of support from family and friends as well as isolation. We seek to reduce their feelings of alienation and estrangement at a time that should be a milestone in their lives.
Our overall aim is to improve the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood for women and ensure the best possible start in life for their new-born babies. We also seek to raise awareness of the needs of the women we work with and to influence changes in policy and law in order to improve conditions of the women we work with.
Information about the current Archers storyline can be found here