Monday, February 24, 2014

Birth stories: why are they important?

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about Birth Stories.  That article has attracted a large number of visitors to the site, about X10 the usual tally, and impassioned discussion on social media sites.

The problem that I have written about there is that a revised advertising guideline for midwives, to be in effect 17th March 2014, states that "the use of patient stories to promote a practitioner or regulated health service" is a testimonial, and prohibited under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.  The revised guideline has taken the word 'testimonial' to mean "a positive statement about a person or thing".  

In drawing attention to this matter I hope the regulatory Board (NMBA) will see that the writing and sharing of birth stories is an important part of social dialogue between women and midwives and the whole birthing community;  that birth stories are not written primarily to promote the midwife or her practice, and therefore should not be considered testimonials.  Birth stories help the mother to recall and record for all time the often amazing journey that she undertook in bringing new life into her family.  The midwife is a small part of the birth story.  The woman and her baby are the central focus.

Having used the word search function of this site, I found a 'birth story in pictures' that I wrote in February 2010.  At the end of that post I wrote: "Please note that midwives and other registered health professionals are not permitted to use testimonials to advertise our services."

In March 2011, I wrote about 'The birth of Richie Jack', and in that post linked to the birth story blog written by his mother, Ashley.  In my post I wrote:


As the midwife I experience a parallel journey. Together we negotiate the often unpredictable and challenging terrain that leads to birth. Our partnership requires trust that goes both ways - she needs to feel able to trust me, and I her.

As I read Ash's birth story, I was reminded of my own emotional journey, and the series of decisions that were made. I felt challenged as time passed - of course I would have loved to see it all happen spontaneously. ...

I have always encouraged mothers in my care to write their birth stories, and will continue to do so, regardless of the revised guideline and its position on 'patient stories' that may mention me, the midwife, in a positive (or negative) way.  The internet and social networks are here to stay, and a mother who uses the internet as a means of sharing her story should be free to do so.

Your comments are welcome. 

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