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Passion for supporting women and their families through pregnancy, birth and the transition to parenthood

Emily joined the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership because she has a passion for supporting women and their families through pregnancy, birth and the transition to parenthood

Emily – volunteer for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership

I’m Emily and I’m a local Antenatal Practitioner and a mum of three. I’m new to the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP), and I joined because I have a passion for supporting women and their families through pregnancy, birth and the transition to parenthood.

I’m really looking forward to meeting more local families and working with our wonderful health professionals.

Help women to feel more empowered and positive about birth

To be involved with something that would help women to feel more empowered and positive about birth

Sally – volunteer for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership

I’m Sally and I’m a mother to two beautiful girls, Lois who is three and Lori who is just over three months now. I found out about the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) through seeing a post being shared on Facebook and I knew instantly I had to be involved! It was something I had been searching for but didn’t know existed.

After the birth of my second daughter I wanted to be involved with something that would help women to feel more empowered and positive about birth. I had this overwhelming sense of pride for what my body could do after birthing my children, and I wanted to help others to feel like they could do it without any fear. After all we are built to do this! After my 20 week scan on my second pregnancy, I was told I was having a ‘big’ baby so was booked in for growth scans every three weeks. I seemed to hear the words ‘big’ baby every time I went to a hospital appointment but not really much else. I asked what this meant and at the time I really wish I hadn’t. All I was given was negative outcomes to having this ‘big’ baby. Words like ‘getting stuck’, ‘complications during labour’, ‘tearing’ and I didn’t really hear anything that was positive. So that was it, fear set in and with a bit of my own “Dr Google” I really became quite scared. I didn’t feel I had any support and I even started to look in to how I could stop my baby growing! (Which you can’t by the way, they are the size they are) This was crazy as we want a healthy baby and that’s all.

Anyway a long story short I was induced at 39 weeks and my labour started instantly, after three hours later I was holding my beautiful baby girl. I had a wonderful and straightforward birth with no complications, or any need for any sort of pain relief or intervention, I did it, I birthed my baby all 10lb 4oz of her all on my own. My midwives and my husband were amazing during my labour, and didn’t doubt for one second that I wouldn’t be able to do it. This support got me through those hours and I will always be grateful for that.

Birth is amazing whatever way you do it and the main thing is that you CAN do it.

I’m just a mum who wants to help other mums find their superpowers.

Emma’s Story – A Positive Birth

Having a positive birth is possible for the majority of women and the care they receive can greatly influence their experience. Emma shares with us her experiences.

Hi, my name is Emma, I’m a mum of three, a step mum of three, and a wife to one, living in Farsley, West Leeds. I’m a service user representation for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) around my work and family commitments, and I’m a bit of a birth geek. I’ve had three babies in the last six years and, I’d like to tell you my story.

Why I became involved with the MVP

I become involved with the MVP because my three birth experiences have been hugely different from each other. The difference between them has inspired me to believe that positive birth is very possible for the majority of women and that the care a woman receives can greatly influence their experience. Frankly, I think that although care is often excellent, sometimes it is not, and I would like to add my energy to improving this for women, to enable them to face the challenges of parenthood without the challenges of a difficult birth to hinder their efforts.

My birthing stories

Baby One – The High Intervention Birth

My first experience wasn’t great. Initially I was fine but my labour escalated dramatically and after some intervention (that I later learned was unnecessary), it led to further intervention and ultimately a lot of healing for my poor battered body. My initial aftercare was very poor and I left the hospital in quite a bad way. I felt awful for some time afterwards, but I thought it was normal, after all, birth is supposed to be hideous isn’t it?

Baby Two – The Undisturbed Birth

Three years on, I was pregnant again and I was sailing through physically but emotionally I was NOT OK. I had fantastic support from my community midwife and I employed a doula, a professional birth attendant, and between them both I got my head in a better place.

When it came, my experience was so different it blew my mind. I stayed in control, I stayed mobile, I stayed calm. Labour was intense but manageable. When I had my moment of panic I mentally forced myself to relax. My baby descended with each breath without any pain, without panic, without pushing. It was such an amazing experience I couldn’t believe it had happened. I couldn’t believe it had happened to me and I felt amazing and I was on a high for weeks afterwards.

Baby Three- The Home Birth

For baby number three I wanted to repeat my second birth experience but with a birth pool and I wanted to get into my own bed afterwards. I was confident I could birth my baby on my own without the facilities of a hospital behind me and I knew I would feel more comfortable at home. I was not disappointed. My baby was born in the pool, I didn’t experience the peace of my second birth but instead I roared through the sensations as I felt my baby move down. It was intense and incredibly satisfying and I fished her out of the pool with my own hands! I felt amazing. She was born all wrapped up in the cord and still with the caul/membrane sac partially around her. She was pink and healthy and was clearly happy with our birth experience too!

These three experiences were so different it seems hard to believe, but this is my story and my truth. I am left in awe of birth and with a great respect for the birth process and the human body and its innate capability to create and nurture life. The effect of a negative birth experience vs a great one is like trying to compare being in a horrible car accident to having trip in a hot air balloon. They are so different.

Is birth is a trial to be endured?

I was left with an enthusiasm for birth and yet an empathy for those who have had a hard experience. My eyes opened to the ‘bad press’ birth has, which has become intrinsic in our generation. We see films and TV programmes where women scream and holler through labour strapped to hospital trolleys, have you ever seen a calm, peaceful birth on TV? Our expectations of birth are very low and I want to change that for my daughter, and for my sons. As a non-medic I didn’t know what I could do, but as the MVP was forming I thought perhaps I could do something. I still don’t know what exactly, but maybe telling you my story is a start.

My advise

My advise to pregnant women and their partners would be to learn, to make a plan, and a plan B and possibly a plan C too. To be advised but to know your own mind too. To consider who you trust and to take them with you, either literally or in your mind. To remember that you have the history of thousands of birthing women behind you and know that you can do it too. To ask questions, and keep asking if you don’t understand the answers and trust that your body knows it’s business. Know that you matter too, know that you will be OK.


If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess in labour then someone isn’t treating her right

Ina May Gaskin


Whats Happening With Maternity Services In Leeds?

Over 10,000 babies are born in Leeds every year. Making the most of every child’s potential is an important goal in Leeds – it’s a commitment made by the Leeds Health and Well-being Board.

We all want the best for our children to help them be happy, healthy and reach their potential. From conception to the age of 2 is a very important time as it makes the biggest difference to your babies’ future. Working together, families and services can help all babies get the best start in life.  We have a plan for how we will do this in Leeds, called the Leeds Maternity Strategy (2015-2020).

The Leeds Maternity Strategy will focus on five main project areas:

    1. Choice
    2. Emotional Health
    3. Preparation for Parenthood
    4. Personalised Care
    5. Targeted Support

Our “What’s happening with Maternity in Leeds?” infographic shows some of the work we have undertaken in these five main project areas.

Over the last few months the MVP Parent Reps have been volunteering their time to meet with families on the antenatal, delivery and postnatal wards at both LGI and SJUH to gather views and feedback of maternity services in relation to the five main project areas. This feedback will help us achieve the goals set out within the Leeds Maternity Strategy to ensure that all babies get the best start in life. The feedback collected over the last few months was used to:

  • Communicate messages of support to midwives from women and families receiving their care.
  • Highlight the need to use one version of the Induction of Labour leaflet to keep information consistent across all LTHT sites.
  • Help identify the need to include Emergency C-Section Aftercare information in leaflets
  • Help identify the need for better communication between staff and parents in relation to the “Importance of Skin-to-Skin contact”
  • This led to an ALWAYS event being held and as a result parental engagement is now being promoted widely with professionals throughout the Trust. Visit the NHS Always Event webpage to find out more.
  • Help increase staff knowledge of local specialised services in perinatal mental health needs. As a result staff are now better able to signpost people who are using maternity services to the right support that they need.
  • Co-design leaflets to promote self-care during pregnancy. For example, a perineal massage information leaflet explaining how perineal massage helps to reduce 3rd and 4th degree tears in birth
  • Help establish the bereavement sub group which led to the opening of the new rainbow clinic supporting women and their partners who have previously suffered a child loss to attend clinics and scans separate to the mainstream clinic
  • Help promote the new Lotus Midwifery Unit to help increase the numbers of ‘Active Births’ across the city
  • Support the development of ‘Leeds Loves Homebirth’
  • Promote the Smoking in Pregnancy survey with the CCG and Beckett University to find out the effectiveness of support offered in helping to lower or cut out smoking in pregnancy. Read the evaluation of the maternal smoking survey here. 
  • Update and re-design information boards across both LTHT sites on topics ranging from; Gestational Diabetes, Smoking, Healthy Eating, Safe Sleeping, Induction of Labour, Skin-to-Skin contact and breastfeeding, Antenatal Education, Perinatal Mental Health, Self Care and After care tips

Being a voice for others

Natasha joined the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership in the hope of being a voice for others, and to make some more positive changes with our maternity services for diverse families in the community

Natasha – volunteer for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership

My name is Natasha and I’m a mum of two amazing children who inspire me every day. I have a great family unit with my husband, son and daughter, with a very busy and fun work life balance. With their support and around their routine, I’m able to take part in lots of community projects and volunteering which I’m really proud of. I’m very passionate about promoting awareness of all the amazing opportunities available for women and girls. I joined the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) in the hope of being a voice for others, and to make some more positive changes with our maternity services for diverse families in the community, especially those who maybe harder to reach in underrepresented areas and from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

My very first group meeting with ladies from MVP was an amazing and powerful experience. To just listen and hear each other’s maternity stories and our journey’s so far.

I was also so honoured and happy to be part of the first ever Leeds MVP ‘Walking the Patch’ on the postnatal ward at St James’s University Hospital. We were able to have a walk around the wards and meet lots of parents, to listen and gain direct feedback about their birthing experiences. After the walk around we attended the hospital team leaders meeting to feedback our findings. A lovely bonus was getting to see so many beautiful and precious new born babies – it was a perfect morning.

I’m really enjoying being part of the Leeds MVP and looking forward to being part of the MVP journey going forward, getting to know the group members and meeting many more mum’s in the community.

You’re not alone

An animation has been co-produced, where mums from Leeds share their stories around how they felt during and after pregnancy, and how important it is to talk to someone


The power of the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership

Maria joined the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership as a service user, and she has seen it become a real powerful force steered by some of the most passionate, hardworking and caring women she’s ever known

Maria – volunteer for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership

I was very fortunate to have joined the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) meetings when Lucy Potter first became Chair. I’ve seen the MVP become a real powerful force steered by some of the most passionate, hardworking and caring women I’ve ever known.

I joined the MVP as a service user. I am a single mum to two beautiful children of whom I experienced very different pregnancies and births with. I am also a facilitator to a parent and tots group within my own community.

Due to personal experiences I had a strong ideal of how I believed maternity services needed to move forward, what was lacking, what needed attention and what was working and why. I felt the MVP was this amazing space where all these women came together from various backgrounds, professions and experiences to share stories, ideas and strategies to move forward in improving maternity services in Leeds. On a personal note I felt this was a platform to address perinatal care especially for those struggling with mental illness. This I hold close to my heart and feel very strongly in being the voice at the meetings to support this particular area.

I’ve now been with the MVP and Lucy for nine months. In that time I’ve had the privilege of been sat in a room full of women who are like minded, with similar views and ideals. These women are all there with the same passion and focus to help, not just this generation of pregnant women but those for generations to come. We’re all different from one another and come from all walks of life, but when we have meetings and all of us are sat together, we’re on the same page, driving with the same goal in mind.

For me the MVP has opened a door of communication between the women in my community and the professionals. It has benefited my group as well as me and others in the community. I have become a link connecting mums or mums to be with the professionals they wouldn’t necessarily get to speak with, and also for the professionals to have the opportunity to speak with mums in an informal manner to gain valuable feedback and information. In turn this has also benefited the MVP itself.

I am also part of the perinatal care team who focus on mental health, wellbeing and vulnerability immediately after giving birth. This has all stemmed from and made possible because of the MVP and the links available to one another.

I have gained a great insight into maternity care in Leeds which has been invaluable and helped forge a way forward. I feel part of something special, which really has the power to move mountains and improve maternity services in Leeds.