I'll never forget the Birth Companion labour ever.

Press Enquiries

Birth Companions can provide expert comment or interviews on the following issues:

  • The Birth Charter for women in Prison in England and Wales
  • The conditions and provision for pregnant women and new mothers currently in prison, as well as comment on how these could be improved. 
  • Comment on the current Archers storyline.
  • The impact of the closure of HMP Holloway on pregnant women and new mothers.

Info Sheet - Useful statistics about Women in Prison 

To arrange interviews with Birth Companions spokespeople please contact: naomi@birthcompanions.org.uk 


PRESS RELEASE 26TH MAY 
GOVERNMENT MUST ENSURE BETTER CARE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN AND NEW MOTHERS IN PRISON

Charity launches new Birth Charter to address current short-comings

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. 


PRESS RELEASE – 22nd MAY 2016
The Archers’ Helen Titchener gives birth in prison

Director of Birth Companions, Naomi Delap says:

“Helen Titchener gave birth to a baby boy in tonight’s (22nd May) episode of The Archers, mirroring the experience of 100 women prisoners who give birth in the UK each year.

“Birth can be a highly stressful experience and no female prisoner should have to go through it without the emotional and practical support often taken for granted in the community. Not every woman is able to have a family member with them during labour as Helen did, so that’s why we provide that support where possible.

“On Thursday this week (26 May) we will be publishing a new set of recommendations in the form of the Birth Charter 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.” 

Mariam, who gave birth while serving a three year sentence, says:

“I had about 10 people see me half naked while I was giving birth and nursing my baby – people I didn’t know. I was breastfeeding, and had men guarding me. To start with I asked them to leave the room every time I did a feed, but then I felt awkward and ashamed about asking them, they seemed almost annoyed.”

The charity Birth Companions has been consulted by The Archers producers to ensure the accuracy of the Helen Titchener storyline.


PRESS RELEASE – 15th MAY 2016
Helen Titchener to be moved to a Mother and Baby Unit in The Archers

Director of Birth Companions, Naomi Delap says:

“During tonight’s (15th May) episode of The Archers, Helen Titchener was getting ready to be moved to a prison-based Mother and Baby Unit in preparation for the birth of her child.

“Helen’s story, and her concerns about giving birth in custody, provide an insight into the real-life experiences of over 600 pregnant women and new mothers who are sent to prison each year. Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) are the only way that new mothers in prison are able to keep their baby with them after birth. Having a place on an MBU ensures a woman can bond with her baby in the vital period after birth, and can breastfeed or express milk; ensuring her baby gets the best possible start in life.

“There are six MBUs in prisons and secure training centres in England and Wales and, as in Helen’s case, women are often sent a long way from their family and friends if they get a place. Some do not find out if they will have a place, and therefore keep their baby with them, until they are in labour or their baby has been born. Around half of mothers of babies within the prison system are separated from their infants because they do not apply or are not eligible for admission to one of these units.

“At Birth Companions we know how important a place on an MBU, and the right support during labour, can be in helping women address their offending behaviour and create the best start in life for their child. That’s why we want all pregnant women to be told whether they have a place on a Mother and Baby Unit as soon as possible after arriving in prison, and why we provide birth companions to those who do not, or cannot, have the support of family or friends before, during and after labour.”

Birth Companions provides practical and emotional support to pregnant women and new mothers in prison, and has been consulted by the BBC in developing the current Archers storyline to ensure the accuracy of Helen Titchener’s experiences. The charity’s Director and specialist staff are excellently placed to offer comment and insight on what Helen is going through and the issues she may face as a pregnant woman and new mother within the prison system.


PRESS RELEASE – 5th MAY 2016
Birth Companions consults on The Archers storyline

Director of Birth Companions, Naomi Delap says:
“Having pleaded not guilty and having her bail application turned down in tonight’s (5th May) episode of The Archers, it has now become clear that heavily pregnant Helen Titchener will give birth in custody. 

“600 pregnant women spend time in prison in England and Wales and 100 babies are born to mothers in custody each year. Helen’s experiences bring the vulnerabilities of many of these women into sharp focus.  Pregnant women in prison have the right to the same standard of antenatal care as women in the community. However, despite several pieces of national and international legislation protecting their health and well-being, many do not get the basic care and support they are entitled to and need to ensure their babies get the best possible start in life.”

One woman supported by Birth Companions, who gave birth while serving a three-year sentence, says:
“I never got any information – no leaflets, nothing that said this is what happens when you’re about to have your baby, this is where you’ll go, this is what you can expect. I had to fight for everything – the extra pregnancy mattress I was entitled to, the extra bread at mealtimes.”

Birth Companions provides practical and emotional support to pregnant women and new mothers in prison, and has been consulted by the BBC in developing the current Archers storyline to ensure the accuracy of Helen Titchener’s experiences. The charity’s Director and specialist staff are excellently placed to offer comment and insight on what Helen is going through and the issues she may face as a pregnant woman and new mother within the prison system.

On 26 May Birth Companions is launching the Birth Charter, a comprehensive set of recommendations to help inform the Government’s ongoing review of the treatment of pregnant women and new mothers in prison, and improve current practice across the Prison Service, on aspects ranging from antenatal care and birthing partners to breastfeeding, family visits and counselling. 

 


PRESS RELEASE – 16 MARCH 2016
Birth Companions receives Tampon Tax grant in today’s budget
Birth Companions is delighted to have been awarded a grant of £90,000 over three years from the Tampon Tax Fund in today’s budget. 
Birth Companions is a small charity set up in 1996 to provide vital practical and emotional support to vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers. We currently work with vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers in three prisons in London and Peterborough and in the London community.
We aim to:

  • improve their well-being
  • enable them to give their babies the best possible start in life
  • influence national policy and practice that impacts on vulnerable mothers and their babies.

The women we support face severe disadvantage and have complex needs including mental health and substance misuse problems; experience of domestic and sexual violence; trafficking; and time spent in care. Our service-users are isolated and have little access to support during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood.  Our intervention comes at a time of particular vulnerability, but also of hope and change, and helps women seize the opportunity to make positive changes in their lives and give their babies a better start in life. 
The needs of vulnerable pregnant women and new mothers, particularly in prison, are currently high on the government’s agenda and Birth Companions is in an excellent position to advise on policy and practice regarding this group of women and children. We are in the process of completing a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the care of pregnant women and new mothers in prison which we will be launching in May. We are also preparing to increase our community presence in anticipation of the government’s plans to keep more women out of custody, but will continue to support these women in prison in the meantime. 
For more information please contact naomi@birthcompanions.org.uk.

 


PRESS RELEASE 8th FEBRUARY 2016
The Closure of HMP Holloway
Birth Companions welcomes David Cameron’s call for a review into the treatment of pregnant women and new mothers in prison.  Birth Companions began working with pregnant women and new mothers in Holloway prison 20 years ago. Since then we have supported almost 1,500 women through pregnancy, birth and early parenthood in prison, and on release. 

Pregnant women and mothers who live with their babies on Mother and Baby Units in prison face many challenges.  These challenges arise both from the cuts that have affected every aspect of the prison service over the last few years, and from a lack of comprehensive guidelines for  the treatment of women in these situations.  At the same time, we recognise that many women have benefited from the support they have received while in prison, forming loving and successful relationships with their children and going on  to rebuild their lives in a positive way after release. 

Birth Companions welcomes David Cameron’s call for a review into the treatment of pregnant women and new mothers in prison and urges the government to explore ways of supporting these women in the community rather than in prison; such as through tagging, problem solving courts, community units and other options.  However, in light of the current level of provision for the support of women offenders in the community, and the resources that Community Rehabilitation Companies and Probation seem to be allocating for this particular group, we question whether funding will be available to offer this support effectively. 

We therefore urge the government to invest sufficient resources in ensuring that women serving community sentences receive the support they need to enable them to parent successfully, overcome the health and social inequalities they face and address their offending behaviour.


 Articles about our work can be found here