A midwife for Kate? The silence that demands a roar

Like much of the world, Kensington Palace just doesn’t get it. Every women needs a midwife and some need a doctor, too!

Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge, has been having care from a midwife for months, like every other pregnant woman in the UK, yet there is a white-out obscuring this important reality. This royal birth could do so much to share important messages about quality maternal and newborn care.

At 6.37 this morning LBC announced:

‘Kate will be looked after by a similar team of doctors and nurses to the one that helped her through Prince George’s birth in July 2013.

Guy Thorpe-Beeston, who holds the role of Surgeon Gynaecologist to the Royal Household, will be leading the medical team.

Alan Farthing, a consultant gynaecological surgeon, will also be present, as he was for the birth of her first son. He is also Surgeon Gynaecologist to the Queen.’

Guy Thorpe-Beeston ‘leading the medical team’, perhaps!

Alan Farthing ‘present’, quite possibly!

A ‘team of …nurses’, Oh please!

Who will provide the care throughout the labour? Who will encourage and support? Who will stage Kate through the undramatic hours?

A midwife, that’s who. A real person, a skilled and experienced professional. A person with a holistic approach, who thinks about the mind as well as the body, who knows that labour is demanding but that a women can do it.

A midwife with a name who should be celebrated for her part and for the sake of her profession. For the sake of other women in the UK and the world-over.

This roll-call  of the key personnel with the big hole at its centre must come directly from a Kensington Palace news release. Shame on their advisors.

Don’t they know that ‘Every woman needs a midwife and some need a doctor, too’? A midwife who is well educated, kind and reliable.

Of course it’s only one birth, but the coverage will be vast. What the royals do and value can influence a generation. We know that Kate is receiving midwifery-led care (no doubt with consultations with an obstetrician from time to time). When Lesley Page received her CBE William made it clear that he knew about the role and the value of a midwife.

The Lancet Midwifery series provides a framework for quality maternal and newborn care that firmly places the needs of women and their newborn infants at its centre. The framework is for midwifery care that includes ‘preventive and supportive care that works to strengthen women’s capabilities’.

In the UK we have some of the best maternity and midwifery services in the world, yet they still need to be developed and extended.

  • More women need to be advised that a midwifery-led birthing unit or a planned home birth is a really positive option.
  • Each and every NHS trust should be providing women with can care from the same midwife in pregnancy, for the birth and for care afterwards, as those who get this kind of relationship value it highly and we know that there are health benefits when continuity of midwifery is provided.
  • More midwifery and community support is needed in the days and weeks after birth to help women and their partners adjust to new parenthood and to help them establish feeding their baby.

In countries where a medical model of care prevails, women are subject to far more invasive interventions and are frequently not respected, as Milli Hill reported yesterday.

The royals will have all the options, all the clinical care and all the support they need. What a good opportunity to promote midwifery care for all.

We have progressive maternity policy in England; hard fought for over many years. Making it happen in practice is the continuing challenge. Come on, Kate. Join us in sharing what you know matters.

And congratulations on the birth of your daughter!

Important further reading

All that matters: Women’s rights in childbirth

The roar behind the silence

NICE guideline on Intrapartum CareAll women should be supported in their choice of setting wherever they choose to give birth. Women who are healthy with a straightforward pregnancy (low-risk) should be advised that ‘planning to give birth in a midwifery‑led unit (freestanding or alongside) is particularly suitable for them because the rate of interventions is lower and the outcome for the baby is no different compared with an obstetric unit’. For multiparous women the same positive message applies to home birth.

8 thoughts on “A midwife for Kate? The silence that demands a roar

  1. Can you not get some sort of press release across to kensington palace PLEASE mary on behalf of NCT and every other birth support business in the UK? Quick, cos this is driving me mad!


    1. Thank you for your comment, Berni! I think the campaign worked! Certainly covered by the Mail. If you feel strongly I suggest you respond to @KensingtonRoyal on Twitter. (I no longer work for NCT, contact elizaebth.duff@nct.org.uk if you need to get a message to NCT.) Take care, Mary


  2. Thank you very much for your article Mary Newburn. The fact that the news coverage does not make it clear in the headlines that both of Kate’s babies were delivered by her with assistance by midwives only….goes to show how,as a society, we still do not value and celebrate what women do and have done ‘well’- for millennia. Instead we hear of Kate’s all male doctor team on standby and how they were present. We might as well talk about when the church started universities in the 1500’s and made men into doctors while women (midwives or any village woman that had medical knowledge) were burned as witches across Europe. It is written in history books that more than a million women died between Europe and the US. The all male judges used a law book in the court rooms that was called ‘the Malleus Maleficarum’ and it was such a popular book it came in 16 editions! Used for almost 200years. Written in 1487 by a German catholic clergyman.
    In the the book…women are more susceptible to demonic temptations through the manifold weakness of their gender. Women accused as witches had strong personalities and were known to defy convention by overstepping the lines of proper female decorum. It quotes, ‘when a woman thinks alone,she thinks evil.’ AND- ‘no one does more harm to the Catholic Church than midwives.’
    When all those strong women died the information and strength that they could have passed down to other women died with them. Women were pushed on their backs to deliver babies by male doctors until women were allowed to become doctors i.e. Elizabeth Blackwell in the US 1849. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in the UK 1865. These doctors and many other women helped midwifery stay alive and well as it had been practiced as a profession for millennia. However,the need to control women and their bodies is constant in our society.


    1. Karen, thank you for your detailed comment. It is so interesting to hear about the history in this kind of succinct but specific detail. Have you written a blog to cover it? I’d be keen to link to it, and I know that others would, too. Please visit Sheena Byrom’s FB timeline and see the comments left there below the post about my blog. Some people don’t know the issues and mistake the message for being anti-doctor. It is not. It is positively pro a social model of care, and the value of midwifery care for providing quality maternal and newborn care (QMNC), cf @midwiferyaction The gender inequality issues are – of course – a major underpinning structural explanation… Thanks, again.


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