MIDWIVES gathered to take part in a protest calling for the government to address the 'crisis' in maternity services.

A crowd of more than a hundred people attended the March with Midwives at The Level in Brighton. They called for greater support for maternity units amid what staff say are dangerous conditions, describing staff shortages, pressures on midwives and rising maternal morbidity and mortality rates.

Many protesters carried banners supporting midwives, with some reading 'Enough's Enough', 'Pushed to our limit', and 'Womb for improvement'.

The Argus: Midwives, health care professionals and members of the public gathered for the protest at The LevelMidwives, health care professionals and members of the public gathered for the protest at The Level

It comes after a recent Royal College of Midwives survey found that 60 per cent of staff are thinking of leaving their profession, and for every 30 newly-qualified midwives, 29 are leaving.

Sas Tame, a midwife who chose to quit, said the profession was "hideous".

She said: "You can be working three night shifts, back to back, without a break.

"It makes it dangerous - midwives are not able to look after themselves, they're not encouraged to look after themselves, and they're expected to support women at their most vulnerable time."

She added that the current situation is putting lives at risk, with the pressure midwives are facing also having a knock-on effect on how women's journeys start as parents.

She said: "If you look at the staffing on a post-natal ward, there's not enough midwives to support those women and their babies - if anything goes wrong, it's down to that one midwife.

"You wouldn't believe how awful it is."

The Argus: Sas Tame (left) and Roma HearseySas Tame (left) and Roma Hearsey

Roma Hearsey, a doula who had her three children at home locally, told The Argus: "The midwives at the moment do not have a functioning service. They are overworked and a lot of great midwives I know have already left.

"There's a whole load of responsibility they carry - literally life and death, and if there's not enough of them, it gets dangerous.

"How will we cope when midwives break under the stress and leave?"

The situation, Roma said, has been made worse by the pandemic as doulas are not able to support midwives on labour wards, despite staff shortages.

Many of those at the protest said they or colleagues they know have had to work a full shift and then do overtime, or work 12 hour shifts without breaks.

New midwife Ella, who did not want to give her surname, said: "Our unit is usually meant to be on about nine midwives each shift, but quite often we are on about five or six.

"We feel like we cannot deliver the care that we want to, to the women that we look after and their families." Protesters said that more funding and better conditions for midwives is essential for care provision and to ensure people stay in the profession.

Lucy Muirhead has served as a midwife for 23 years, and said that she has not known staffing to be so low.

She said: "In the past, as a community midwife, we would even be able to go see someone in the morning and see how they're doing later in the afternoon.

"Now it's like a conveyor belt to get through the number of post-natal visits we need to do each day - you just have to keep going regardless of the disaster you're walking into.

Carla Mastroianni, another midwife who has decided to leave the profession, said that morale has hit a low and that staff shortages have meant there is no time for anything other than basic care.

"The human aspect of sitting with someone and going through the trauma of their birth, or the wonders of their birth - we can't sit with the families any more because there is no time.

"I never switch off, we are working constantly because there is not enough of us."

The protest was part of a series of nationwide vigils taking place in towns and cities with maternity units.

The Argus: Midwives, health care professionals and members of the public gathered for the protest at The LevelMidwives, health care professionals and members of the public gathered for the protest at The Level

Midwives, doulas and health care professionals in Worthing also gathered to demonstrate against working conditions.

Worthing vigil organiser Pat Schan, a local retired midwife who worked in Worthing Hospital, said: "The reason for this nationwide action is because midwives in the UK are leaving their profession.

"Maternity units are closing their doors and the safety of birth in the UK is in crisis as infant maternal morbidity are on the rise.

"Although retired I remain passionate about midwifery and women's health. There is overwhelming evidence that midwives are important message and care givers - women and families listen to them.

"The crisis facing the profession now is real - they must now be heard by the government."

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