Birth Essay

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The concept of 'consumers' in maternity care began to develop in the 1960s when, in the UK, three national groups involved with childbirth were established. The Natural Childbirth Association (founded in 1956) became the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), and Mother Care for Children in Hospital (founded in 1961) became the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital (NAWCH), and then, in 1991, became Action for Sick Children. AIMS too was founded in 1960, and originally called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pregnant Women. All of these organisations were established as a result of an initiative from individuals who felt that something had to be done about the services at that time. AIMS provides information and support to anyone who asks for it. Our telephone helpline, website and email facility, and the help and advice we give to women who intend to complain about their care, keep us in touch with ordinary women and alert us to trends and emerging problems. The process of writing up the history of AIMS for my address at the 50th Anniversary Luncheon was a depressing exercise. The letters the women wrote in the 1960s are little different from the letters written today. Maternity care in the UK, as in much of the Western Hemisphere, is dominated by obstetricians, who have moved from a position where they were called in to assist with a problem labour to the current situation where they control the majority of pregnancies and births. They have done so by persuading the population that childbirth is inherently dangerous, that women's bodies do not function well, by undermining their confidence, by claiming that only obstetric care will guarantee a healthy baby and, worst of all, by carrying out what is now an international witch hunt to remove those midwives who practise real midwifery. As a result of this control, women's voices are

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