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How was your experience of giving birth in the UK? I hope it was positive but for many women it isn’t. There are many advocates who work towards dramatic, coherent and permanent improvements in how the UK’s maternity services are managed and practiced but is this endless work making a difference? Can we, the expecting couples and parents who have used the NHS maternity services, help make improvements?
Whilst the vast NHS machine rumbles on and professional bodies like the Royal College of Midwives do their utmost to deliver the best possible quality of care, how many of us can really see nationwide service altering changes? Sadly not me in the near future. What will make a difference is user demand. If the majority of expecting women in the UK demand better quality of one to one care, more support for home births, higher standards of antenatal education and NHS access to a menu of holistic or complementary therapies proven to be hugely beneficial for pregnancy and birth, then the government will have to work towards meeting these higher expectations.
Whilst the fight continues, now and again we, the service users can win little skirmishes and an immediate and effective way to do this is to join your local MSLC, Maternity Service Liaison Committee. Run by maternity service users and providers, these meetings give new parents, expecting women or non NHS birth professionals a voice which can speak directly to senior midwifery management representatives. There are not many other ways where a community can meet regularly with midwives, obstetricians and other maternity staff and begin to decide together how to make improvements in the care being offered within their local area.
MSLCs are endorsed and promoted by the government and their own paper, ‘Maternity Matters: choice, access and continuity of care in a safe service’ published on 3rd April 2007  states that if a MSLC does not exist then one ought to be established. So if this is an area of particular interest then begin to email the Heads of Midwifery in your areas and see what can be done.
This is how we can begin to make small changes, bit by bit but crucially this is the voice of the people who do have the power to shift maternity care in the direction it needs to be and off the path it is currently on.
For more information about your local MSLCs please click this link – http://www.chimat.org.uk/mslc/support/websites
As a natural childbirth consultant, Sarah helps expecting women and their partners make informedchoices about their pregnancy and birth. Sarah teaches Hypnobirthing, lectures about normal birth and founded Baby-Birth – an international website all about pregnancy, birth and the immediate postnatal period.