The NHS is paying a controversial author to persuade midwives to promote ‘natural birth’ despite a series of baby deaths associated with it, campaigners have claimed.
At least two trusts have allowed Sheena Byrom to give talks to midwives that include pro-natural birth messages, enraging parents who have lost babies after being encouraged towards normal birth.
This is when a birth takes place without a caesarean section, induction, instruments or epidural.
Mrs Byrom, a midwifery consultant, was paid £4,190.20 to lead study days at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which was put into special measures last year over serious failings.
At least two trusts have allowed Sheena Byrom to give talks to midwives that include pro-natural birth messages
She also addressed midwives and students at Derby Teaching Hospitals Trust, where she said: ‘We need a solution to increasing intervention. We can’t continue as we are.’
The issue has been increasingly controversial since the avoidable deaths between 2004 and 2013 of 11 babies and a mother in the Morecambe Bay scandal, where midwives known as ‘the musketeers’ pursued natural births ‘at any cost’.
Rhiannon Davies, 43, who lost her newborn baby after being encouraged to give birth naturally, said: ‘People like Sheena Byrom have got their own agenda and they are frankly dangerous. It’s terrifying that these talks are given an NHS platform.’
The Royal College of Midwives dropped its Normal Birth Campaign three years ago after conceding it ‘created the wrong idea’.
But in her talk at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust last month, Mrs Byrom said: ‘Do we really believe that women’s bodies are so faulty that less than 40 per cent will give birth without intervention?’
A Freedom of Information request revealed that at the Walsall trust 129 midwives attended compulsory training, learning that natural birth is ‘women centred’, while intervention by doctors is a ‘bio-medical ideology’.
Freda Marsh, 22, who nearly died after being denied a caesarean in June, said: ‘I’m disgusted. Women don’t go in saying they want a caesarean because they are lazy, or too posh to push – it’s because they feel they need one to be safe.’
Freda Marsh, 22, who nearly died after being denied a caesarean in June says she’s disgusted at people who want the procedure being dismissed
Maureen Treadwell, of the Birth Trauma Association, said: ‘There’s this powerful lobby that want to keep the normal birth agenda going. They have to remember it has been responsible for babies dying.’
Mrs Byrom said: ‘I was invited to go to the trust in response to a CQC report that the trust had a higher-than-average caesarian rate and intervention rate. I’m not campaigning for anything.’
The Walsall NHS trust said: ‘Our review of policies, guidelines and training has been based on our aim to increase opportunities for normal birth without compromising safety.’ Derby Teaching Hospitals Trust said: ‘As one of only two trusts in the East Midlands in the first wave of a national maternity safety collaborative, we are fully committed to safety and improvement in maternity care.’