International Women’s Day – Save Motherhood Movement!

March 8th is International Women’s Day and this year they are asking you to #beboldforchange! For me this means a Save Motherhood Movement!

In the year 2017, when we are supposedly the most advanced in our societal evolution and equality reforms, why do we need a Save Motherhood Movement? Let me explain:

  • There has been a steady decline in maternity services to new mums –
    • In 2012 there 128,996 more births than the service was designed to cope with – no current exact figures available
    • However, maternity services are being cut by 40% year on year over the past 3 years
  • There is a significant increase in premature births:
    • Globally, more than 1 in 10 pregnancies will end in preterm birth (and this number is rising). in the UK, around 80,000 babies are born prematurely each year needing specialist hospital care. This is 1 in 9 babies.
    • In babies born preterm, the chance of survival at less than 23 weeks is close to zero, while at 23 weeks it is 15%, at 24 weeks 55% and at 25 weeks about 80%.

I believe one reason for this is the increased levels of stress pregnant woman are placed under compared to previous decades. Maternal stress during pregnancy has been proven to have a direct effect on the unborn baby’s brain development and the increased risk factor on miscarriage or premature birth. Work/life balance has heavily tipped in favour of work due to progression of technology and financial pressures families are placed under. In addition, pregnant employees are being pressured to work as close to their due date as possible leading again to increased stress levels, increase in new mums not bonding with their baby as they are missing out on a crucial ‘nesting’ phase and an increase in premature births and post-natal depression.

  • There is a decline in the social care services to new mums
    • One in ten women felt that they did not get the support or consistent advice in the first 6 weeks after their birth according to an NCT (National Childbirth Trust) report
    • Inconsistent information given to new mums
    • 1 third of new mums according to an NCT report were not satisfied with the support or information they were given
  • There is a significant Increase in depression in new mums

I believe there are too crucial factors that are contributing to the increase in depression in new mums:

– Social media: has allowed a bullying culture and peer pressure on issues such a breastfeeding to the extend some mums have been ostracized, or worse, taken their own lives

– Celebrity culture: again social media plays its part in portraying ‘perfect world’ scenarios to new mums who struggle socially, emotionally and financially to ‘keep up’. Whether that be to lose their post baby weight, to appear perfectly groomed the day after their baby is born or to ensure the latest ‘must have’ accessory

  • There is also a significant increase in separation anxiety for babies of mums returning to work

Due to Statutory Maternity Pay changes in recent years, mums are returning to work on average when baby is 6-9 months old. This is during a crucial stage of baby’s development of separation anxiety. Financial pressure on families and mum’s to ‘retain’ their pre-pregnancy career is such that they have no choice but to return at this time. Paid maternity leave needs to be increased to at least 1 full year.

  • Britain ranks 11th out of 18 countries reviewed for equality at work.
    • British working mothers are significantly worse off than those without family responsibilities
    • Gender pay gap: without children is 9%, with children is 21%
    • Financial inclusion is one of the keys to closing the gender gap, however, current policies are actively working against this
  • 3 out of 4 working mothers experience some type of discrimination in their professional life
  • ½ of working mothers say pregnancy and maternity leave had a negative impact on their career
  • Equality & Human Rights Commission reported up to 54,000 mums were forced out of their jobs in 2016.

We are forcing women to choose between being a caregiver OR a breadwinner  – Motherhood is a right, it is not an inconvenience

So, how do we make motherhood work?

First and foremost, we have to remember that our entire future rests on the ability of woman to give birth to healthy babies. There will be no ‘next generation’ if we do not start making motherhood a right and a priority, and that is across the world!

We have to acknowledge and nurture the sensory journey of both mother and baby during pregnancy to ensure its best chance to be healthy, full term and for both to thrive beyond birth.

Finally we have to acknowledge the rights of women to experience motherhood without any impact on their financial stability or career.

This means:

  • Eliminating discrimination during pregnancy
  • Access to correct and supportive information and services
  • Supporting their working environments and pregnancy needs
    • Reducing stress
    • Sufficient time off before the baby’s due date to facilitate crucial stage of bonding and baby’s development in the womb and mum’s health & well-being
    • Supportive maternity leave without pressures of returning prematurely
    • Supporting mums at work if they are breastfeeding
  • Shared parenting
  • Flexible working
  • Supportive and non-destructive maternity leave/pay
  • Supportive and non-destructive childcare funding – current funding pushes the financial burden on returning to work and the first 3 years
  • Support services for all parents to access
  • Acknowledge and support mum’s health & mental wellbeing throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond
  • A society that supports motherhood in its raw beauty and not one that portrays a false image, is judgmental and berating

Therefore, this International Women’s Day my #beboldforchange message is Save Motherhood!

 

NOTES:

Explanation of ‘non-destructive’ maternity leave/pay – paid maternity leave needs to be increased to include a minimum of 8 weeks leave prior to the due date and to the baby’s first birthday. This will allow the health (including mental health) and well-being of both mother and baby during crucial developmental stages both in the womb and after birth. Stress during pregnancy can be a main contributing factor to premature births and subsequent complications faced by mum and/or baby.

This will actually be cost effective for companies in the long term as it will result in less sickness absence and a more productive workforce. It will also reduce their risks which are currently significantly increasing of legal claims under occupational health concerns for stress, bullying and negligence when mums suffer miscarriage, premature birth, neonatal death or post-natal depression.

 

Explanation of ‘non-destructive’ childcare funding – the current Government policies of 15hrs Free Education for 3 & 4yr olds and the proposed 30hr funding for Free Childcare for 3 & 4 year olds is the catalyst for the additional financial burden parents for childcare of children under 3 are facing due to Government under-funding. Childcare settings are being forced to place the financial losses from Government under-funding of these policies on to the fee paying parents of children under the age of 3 and in some cases, in particular to children under 2 when families are under the most financial pressure from mums recent maternity leave package.