How we are groomed in healthcare.

This post may be quite a difficult read for both professionals and parents.

If you feel you need some support then please call you GP, a mental health charity or call a trusted friend.

When we think about maternity care  we envisage wonderful people who just want to make a persons life better. We think of caring humans who are doing what they can to keep people alive. 

Yet within this grooming is happening. And yes, the same tactics that the typical vision of a groomer of young girls does also happen in maternity care. 

How? Many ways. 

Coercion is the big one. Coercion is actually usually done very subtly and in many forms.

Power imbalances play a part. The NHS and maternity system is seen as some amazing institution (it is) and the people within it often seen as untouchable. Yes, maternity staff are very knowledgeable, they are also human, with emotions and biases. This is OK. They do, however,  hold a lot of power and with this means that those who aren’t as knowledgeable, appear to  have less power. With every power difference those that hold higher perceived power can very easily coerce. Simply because we are taught to believe what the professionals, those with authority, tell us.

We learn this at a very young age through our parents and teachers. Learning to listen to our parents isn’t a bad thing as it keeps us safe. Believing everything anyone with some authority tells us does not necessarily keep up safe (look up Milgram studies in authority for anyone interested in the deeper psychology.) 

A typical abuser will assert authority in order to control an manipulate/coerce. 

Language used in maternity and health care is often coercive. Think about conversations that are had around deciding a plan of care. “I’m not allowed”, “you’ll be against medical advice” etc. If you feel you cannot say no then it’s not consent and is legally assault. 

One for professionals who say “my ladies”, perhaps we should be using alternatives such as “women I work with… women I support”. Using the word “my” implies ownership. It implies control. 

Then we have gaslighting and guilt tripping involved. Gaslighting is a series of techniques that make the person its being done to feel confused and like they are wrong. Done to assert control and power. 

I would say, controversially, that birth debriefs (especially by the same person in the same unit) are a form of gaslighting the parents. (But debriefs are a whole other topic for another day) 

So, how does gaslighting exist in maternity? Usually if you’ve had one thoight and then come away with a different thought and not really sure how it happened. A lack of informed choice is likely happening which is coercive as the full information hasn’t been given therefore gaslit and manipulated into one way.

Again, this is not saying maternity workers are just abusing women. They’re not. There’s a systematic and societal problem teaching people that authority and power is good. 

As a birth worker and mental health worker it can be easy to assert authority to get someone to react favourably to your needs and often many do not even know they are doing it.

I believe if everyone has their power then no one needs to take any. 

I’ve worked in healthcare for around 18years now and we are STILL having the same conversations around power, control, coercion. This is NOT acceptable. It’s time to change this.

When a family asks questions we don’t like, let’s not scoff, let’s not talk about them in the staff room and definitely not in network meetings!  Take it to supervision! 

Let’s give workers decent supervision. Let’s give them decent breaks and pay. Let’s not burnout our care workers. Don’t accept toxic workplace environments. 

Parents, ask the questions, you have a right to know, you have a right to say no. Healthcare workers are there to care for you, but they are not the authority of you or your baby, you are. 

In short, society grooms is all to listen to authority. We’re therefore groomed to do whatever we’re told by healthcare staff. Healthcare staff do want to help and support. We need a huge societal shift but we also need to challenge behaviours that don’t allow for choices to be respected. 

Should we be grateful for a bad outcome?

So many times, I am hearing and witnessing new parents being grateful to the “professionals” for saving them and their baby. Where this is true, the healthcare staff do save lives. What appears to be worrying trend to thank the interventions that may not have actually been necessary and actually caused the need to be “saved” in the first place.

Statistics show that on average in the UK 70% of births have some form of intervention happen. Do we really think that we have evolved so only 30% of humans can birth the next generation without help? Yes, epigenetics may be having an effect on this (watch for new blog post) but to such an extent? I’m really not convinced this should be so low.

Therefore, these interventions will, mostly, be unnecessary.

In practice as a Doula and trainee Counsellor working in this area, I am seeing that when women realise that what happened to them may not have needed to happen, they have a whole range of emotion. Anger, distress, sadness, anxiety, distrust, the list goes on. I also see women coming and saying, “They saved mine and my babies life, so why do I feel this way.”  “It was done to me, not with me” Then they do not wish to approach what happened in any detail and piece things together. Mothers, and fathers seem to enter a dissociated state, a trauma state.

Acknowledging that those who “saved” a mother and baby may actually be the one who caused the need to be saved is a really difficult journey and should not be ignored. Many parents come to us quite angry at what happened. “It was done to me. I didn’t know I could say no, I trusted them.”. This is NOT consent.

Gaslighting is a term used to describe what abusers do to their victims in order to manipulate them to be grateful to the abuser. Even manipulating the victims version of really that they doubt their reality. It appears this may be happening on a societal level.

All this is not saying that maternity professionals are deliberately causing harm to then save women and babies. This appears to be more a societal/ cultural issue. “Well at least you have a live baby”. “At least we have a free health service” “they do what they can with limited funding”. Should we be grateful for limited care? The worry within the medical professionals to act before a major incident could be contributing. The worry of litigation. The lack of education around birth expectations. The overworking of staff. The lack of funding within the health care system. Many factors can be contributing to this.

So, what can birth workers do? Listen, even if a mother comes to us reporting these things, listen. Do not dismiss.

What can we do to prevent this? This can be a difficult balance. Sometimes intervention needs to happen to save lives. Consider if the intervention is too soon and a bit panicky. For example, is this induction truly clinically indicated if she is 40+10? Does the mother and father have the full range of information to make the decision? Time can be limited to do this, I know. So, let’s think how this can be done. The lack of funding in the NHS is a real problem. Staff and the public all feel it. I’m not sure how that can change anytime soon without a real shake up of government policy. (a whole other blog/debate) I do believe that we can all ease the burden of this with compassion and acknowledging where we may get it wrong.

Antenatal education is important! Find an antenatal class or Doula who can give all the information for all eventualities so you, as parents, can have all the information available before you could be in the moment needing to make a quick decision. In our classes we talk about the BRAIN.

Benefits – what are the benefits of doing or not doing this?

Risks – What are the risks associated?

Alternatives – What alternatives are they? True alternatives. Not just carefully selected alternatives to coerce into something.

Instinct – what is your instinct saying? Listen to it, it is important.

Nothing –  what happens if you do nothing? Can you just wait? With any decision there is always the option of doing nothing.

Second opinion or Smile – Can you have a second opinion? Or just smile and ask for some time to think. Even if 1 minute.

Everything pregnancy and birth related is the choice of the parents. More than that it is the choice of the mother.

If you are afraid to say no, then it is not informed consent.

If you are reading this and are feeling some distress or that something like this has happened to you then please call us, we have trained staff to talk to. Or contact your local mental health team, Birth Trauma Association, Samaritans.

You can also feedback to your local maternity and health service as they do want to learn how to make care better.

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Delivering babies or birthing babies?

image-1Are babies delivered or do women birth them?

This subject has been on my mind for a while so I thought it’d be a subject to blog about.

We often hear or read birth stories and the word “delivery” is almost always in there somewhere. “I delivered my baby…”. “Midwife x/ doctor y delivered my baby”. To me, and many other doulas/ birth workers the word just doesn’t sound correct.

Copyright Michelle Bromley, snowdrop doulaSo what does the word mean and why doesn’t it feel right?

The dictionary definition of “deliver” does mention, “The act of giving birth to a child”. Although overall the definition does talk of the handing over of goods.


(Plural) -eries

  1.  the act of giving birth to a child   ⇒ she had an easy delivery
    1. the act of delivering or distributing goods, mail, etc.
    2. something that is delivered
    3. (as modifier)   ⇒ a delivery service
  2. manner or style of utterance, esp in public speaking or recitation   ⇒ the chairman had a clear delivery
  3. the act of giving or transferring or the state of being given or transferred
  4. the act of rescuing or state of being rescued; liberation
  5. (sport)an actual or symbolic handing over of property, a deed, etc
    1. the act or manner of bowling or throwing a ball
    2. the ball so delivered   ⇒ a fast delivery
  6. the discharge rate of a compressor or pump
  7. (in South Africa) the supply of basic services to communities deprived under apartheid


Delivery is associated with goods. We take a delivery of goods we have ordered from somewhere. Do we order our babies to be delivered by a third party? Like a good from eBay?

Who is this third party?

With sentences such as, “thank you to my midwife X who delivered my baby” we are constantly seeing women giving over their baby’s birth to the midwife or doctor. A third party is delivering their baby. Through this the process of birth and transformation of a woman to a mother gets somewhat lost as women constantly believe that someone else “delivered” their baby.

Is it a case of language and communication?

Language in everyday life is so important and especially important surrounding birth. As a birth worker it is essential to empower women to have responsibility of their experience and empower them however the birth turns so they feel in some control. It is proven that if a woman feels empowered and in control then she will have a positive experience of birth. If a women is believing that a midwife delivered  her baby rather than her birthing her baby herself then we let her to give over an extremely important part of her life to someone she may never meet again. She gives over the responsibility of her birth and transformation. She never owns it. As birth workers we know the importance of a mother needing to own the birth and her baby. Some (perhaps me included) would say that if women can’t own their birth then how can we expect them to own the “product” of that birth (i.e. the baby) fully and easily? We see in the animal world that if there is any intervention in the birth then the mother rejects the baby. Can we relate this to a human being allowed to believe someone else “delivered” her baby as allowing a third party intervention?

How about we all birth our babies?

The word birth conjures up allsorts of thoughts and feelings. Of magic, wonder and owe to orgasmic to fear, pain, hurt, blood and possibly horror. So many different and opposite feelings. However, birth should be and can be a positive experience.


  1. the process of bearing young; parturition; childbirth related adjective natal
  2. the act or fact of being born; nativity
  3. the coming into existence of something; origin
  4. ancestry; lineage   ⇒ of high birth
  5. noble ancestry   ⇒ a man of birth
  6. natural or inherited talent   ⇒ an artist by birth
  7. (archaic) the offspring or young born at a particular time or of a particular mother
  8. See give birth

Verb (transitive)


  1. to bear or bring forth (a child) 

I think the last sentence in the definition of “birth” speaks volumes. “To bear or bring forth”. Can a third party do this easily? I say not. What about, “the coming into existence”? This is more spiritual, positive and magical. A woman has to do something here to bring a child into existence. This word doesn’t allow for a third party to take full responsibility. Unlike the word “delivery” which immediately conjures up images of a third party help necessary.

Women will recall the fine details of the birth of their children forever. When we let women say, “The midwife who delivered my baby” it can make the lady feel somewhat detached from their experience for their whole lives. To empower women and mothers and therefore future generations surely we need to give them their births back? Let them own it.

Even when intervention is necessary is possible to give women ownership of their bodies and birth of their child? I would say yes, this is especially important, so they don’t feel like they have failed. They have still birthed their baby, albeit with help. It’s important to empower the woman to call the shots and own what is happening.

So, are babies delivered or do women birth babies?

Can we rethink the language we may use and how we respond to those comments?

Let’s empower women and mothers.

Thought for the day!

When we see programs about animals birthing the humans are always hands off. They say this is because if they become involved then complications will arise and the mother may not bond and either the mother or baby (or both) may die. I suppose it is worth noting they don’t have due dates too “she will birth when she is ready, instinct knows what to do”

These animals are all mammals that give birth to a live young, with a placenta. 

Humans are too mammals that give birth to live young, with a placenta. However a complete different approach is used. It is very much hands on with us. We have due dates given which are very rarely correct and often lead to interventions and problems. It’s almost as if “she will birth when we say so.” No acknowledgement of instinct is made. 

Perhaps we can learn from animals? Take charge of our instincts.