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‘Real taboo’: include birth trauma in UK women’s health strategy, MP urges

‘Real taboo’: include birth trauma in UK women’s health strategy, MP urges

Theo Clarke shares own experience and says large number of people contacted inquiry into birth trauma after call for evidence

Birth trauma remains a “real taboo” and should be part of the UK government’s women’s health strategy, an MP leading an inquiry into the subject has said.

On Tuesday, the all-party parliamentary group on birth trauma launched an inquiry, led by the Conservative MP, Theo Clarke, and Labour’s Rosie Duffield, looking into the causes behind traumatic births and to develop policy recommendations to reduce the occurrence of birth-related trauma. The inquiry is open to parents and professionals in the maternity field, and is expected to report on its findings in April.

Clarke, the MP for Stafford, said she was “delighted” to be launching the first parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma, and said the topic was “long overdue for discussion within parliament”.

“I was amazed that literally within the first five minutes of announcing the call for evidence on social media we already had submissions into our inquiry inbox, probably the quickest response I’ve ever had to anything I’ve announced as an MP in my career,” Clarke said.

“That really shows how incredibly important this subject is and how mums in the UK feel that they need to be listened to and they want their stories to be heard.”

Clarke was inspired to launch the inquiry after needing emergency surgery and thinking she was going to die after the birth of her daughter in 2022. “I gave birth to my daughter last year and had a third-degree tear, which is a very significant birth injury, and which resulted in me having a huge surgery,” she said.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 women experience PTSD after birth in the UK, according to the Birth Trauma Association.

The inquiry is currently collecting written and oral evidence to inform the policy report. The report is due to put forward policy recommendations for the government and will be published April 2024.

Evidence will be heard over several sessions between February and March. Its main objectives will be to “identify common features in maternity care (antenatally, during labour and birth, and postnatally) that contribute to birth trauma, highlight examples of good practice, both in the quality of maternity care and in providing support to women who have had traumatic birth experiences, and to look at the impact of birth trauma on women’s relationships, ability to bond with their baby and future decision-making”.

The inquiry said they particularly welcomed submissions “from people from marginalised communities such as those who are racially minoritised, LGBT, economically disadvantaged, homeless, asylum-seeking or displaced, care-experienced, neurodivergent or facing any other circumstances [that mean] their voice is less likely to be heard”.

Clarke spoke of her own experience during a Commons debate on birth trauma in October, and said the reaction to her speech showed just how important the issue was to many people in the UK.

She said: “There is such a focus on the baby post-birth that we sometimes forget about the mums and the fact that they need care too. And I was really amazed when I shared my personal story last year the huge amount of people that contacted me from across the country that shared their own difficult stories.

“It was very clear to me that there was a real taboo about talking about birth trauma, and people felt that they couldn’t share with friends or colleagues at work if they had had a birth injury or had mental psychological distress based on giving birth.”

Separate to the inquiry, Clarke has called on the government to consider birth trauma as part of the women’s health strategy update next week, because “it is recognised and included”.

July 2024