MUTU System officially launched the #ByMySide birthing partner campaign in 2020 to advocate for women being permitted to have their birthing partner(s) by their side.
These times [written during the COVID pandemic] are extremely challenging for everybody, but few more than pregnant women. As mothers, we know just how daunting childbirth can be and as such the sheer importance of having a birthing partner with us as an advocate for our choices, a voice to speak of our fears and anxieties when perhaps we are unable to, a mental support pillar in the case of bad news or complications.
Pregnant women are extremely vulnerable during the pandemic when it comes to their mental health. The absence of a birthing partner during antenatal appointments, all levels of labour and postpartum stages has the capacity to cause many mental health issues and anxieties. Pregnant mothers need advocation and close support from somebody they trust.
Birthing partners are not visitors, they are crucial supporters in our journey and at some point during this pandemic, this has affected women worldwide.
My Birth Partner Saved My Life #ByMySide
When I think back to my last labour experience of 2007, one that would threaten to take my life and leave my two children without a mother, it is my birthing partner’s desperate plea to stay awake, his face nose to nose with mine as I faded away, that will never leave me.
My message is clear, my birthing partner helped to save my life and with the heightened anxieties of the pandemic rife, the continual presence of a birthing partner has never been so important.
I often think about that day. I often pose the question what would have happened had I been in that room alone? What would have happened to that petrified women in searing pain edging closer and closer to the abyss had she not had her rock by her side enforcing the strength to fight against the urge to submit? Would she have had the fight to hold on?
“He stopped me, focused me and urged me to cling on to life”
My story dates back 13 years, when the labour period for my second child ended in a vicious haemorrhage and dangerous levels of blood loss. There is very little I remember of the moments between my newborn son being given to my husband, accompanied only with a murmur of ‘take him’, and being transported by air ambulance to a larger hospital. But one of the vivid memories from that day was my husband, and birthing partner, bringing his face as close as it could be to mine when all I wanted to do was close my eyes and bring an end to the pain. He stopped me, focused me and urged me to cling on to life. Had he not been there for support and as a reminder of our marriage, my less than an hour-old son and four-year-old daughter, I may not be here writing to you today.
It’s a trauma that reshaped my entire perspective on life, my career, and showed me the importance of birthing partners for women’s physical and mental health. It’s why I speak so strongly today, over a decade on, about the crucial role of having a chosen and trusted advocate throughout the antenatal, labour and postpartum stages.
Pregnancy and Birth During a Pandemic #ByMySide
According to recent reports, three-quarters of NHS trusts in the UK are not allowing birth partners to support mothers throughout their whole labour, and according to data collected for 144 trusts in England, Scotland and Wales by an independent doula, half of the trusts and health boards covered by the research were restricting partners from attending at least two of three key moments:
- the 12-week scan
- the 20-week scan
- and the duration of labour.
The Guardian reported that as of Wednesday 23rd September that ‘in 50% of cases women have to go to their first 12-week scan alone, while 40% of women have to attend the 20-week scan – which identifies potential anomalies – without their partner because of continuing coronavirus restrictions’.
Childbirth is one of the most naturally beautiful moments in a person’s life, but it also has the potential to be devastatingly complicated – sometimes beyond comprehension. We simply cannot allow women to face these moments alone.
That’s why we launched the #ByMySide social media campaign – a rallying call to raise awareness of the role of a birthing partner for the mental and physical health of pregnant women and to help implement changes to the restrictions.
Post a picture with your birthing partner, whether that be from today or during the time of labour and birth, with a message outlining their importance in your journey. Accompany the post with #ByMySide and a tag to @mutusystem
Together, we must show that birthing partners stand for so much more than passive onlookers – they carry us through, empower us, give us a voice, and advocate for our wellbeing. We need them by our side. #ByMySide.