Maternity Voices is a branch of the national ‘Maternity Matters’ campaign, which is funded by the NHS.
They collect feedback from mothers and partners who have recently had babies in Dorset hospitals and use this to represent them in the system.
Since launching in 2017, Maternity Voices has helped hundreds of women receive better antenatal, birth, and postnatal care; including the option of a maternal request caesarean.
Lead representative of the organisation, Rachel Filmer, said:
“When I started this job five years ago, hospital trusts were sending letters saying that they would not perform maternal requested caesareans, and whether or not a woman could have a C-section would be based on medical grounds.”
Now, because of the workshops and meetings involving Maternity Voices, women in Dorset can have caesarean births if they choose.
A service user of University Hospitals Dorset said:
“This time around I felt much more involved in my care and the decisions for my health and wellbeing, a stark difference from my first birth in 2018.”
Other major changes to the system made by Maternity Voices include rewriting the postnatal care pathway so it now requires midwives to be involved with the parents and their newborn 28 days post-birth rather than 10.
Rachel Filmer has been a part of the initiative from the very start, later joined by Marianne Scott, the Maternity Voices Chair for University Hospitals Dorset, and Kelly Hickson, the Chair for Dorset County Hospital.
She has twin boys, aged five, who spent a long period in the NICU after birth as one had growth restrictions.
Mrs Filmer said: “Personally, I wanted a caesarean. I found pregnancy, birth and neonatal really traumatic and it has stuck with me long term. I particularly struggled feeding and didn’t feel like I had the support to make it work. I decided after that I wouldn’t have any more children at risk going through what I went through again. If I can do anything to help prevent that for anyone else then that’s what I want to do.”
After conducting a survey from April to June 2022, the results showed that feeding support is a recurrent issue for new mothers in Dorset.
The survey showed that 18% of women felt they had enough information on feeding their baby.
Maternity Voices aims to address this, as well as informed consent and personalised care, next.