Neighbourhood Midwives


An interview with Katie Selman: mother of three and ex-client.


What made you decide to choose an Independent midwife?

During my mid twenties, I was working in a large office with lots of women who were pregnant or had young children. I heard stories from them of the situations they’d faced at hospital during their births or post-natal period that filled me with dread. I was living in Wandsworth, known as Nappy Valley due to its high birth rate so I didn’t need much convincing that the local hospitals were overrun and unable to cope with the many women passing through their doors. As a child, I had had a bad experience at hospital and still as an adult, was highly uncomfortable in hospital or clinical environments so I was worried about going into hospital in labour and shutting down.

By chance, I saw an article about Annie from NM in the local SW Magazine. The headline was “One woman, one midwife” which summed up all my concerns. I kept it and once I was pregnant, I called Annie and we met to discuss the options. I still remember that first meeting. It turned out she had delivered a baby on our house with previous owners!

There was no question from then on that we would have an independent midwife looking after us. The care during my pregnancy was superb and I stopped seeing my NHS midwife after my 21wk scan – I simply didn’t need to as I had all I needed in Annie and my second midwife, Tina. Initially I had been planning a hospital birth with Annie attending, but as the time drew near, I strongly felt I wanted to be at home if I could be and that is testament to the relationship I had built with Annie and Tina.

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The pelvic floor is a part of the body which suddenly comes into sharp focus when you’re pregnant and especially afterwards. Generally because we start to wet ourselves when we laugh, cough, sneeze or jump! Unfortunately, our reference point is now the celebrities on social media and not the real women in our communities as it used to be which makes the shame and confusion around the symptoms we all have with our pelvic floors stay hidden.

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I am very lucky, I have experienced both the joy as a mother of having a midwife I knew really well attend my babies’ births and I now work as a midwife who knows the women she cares for.

Before I was even pregnant with my second baby, I knew that I wanted a different kind of midwife. I had previously given birth in a large obstetric unit, cared for by a variety of unknown midwives and felt that the whole experience was impersonal and that I was ‘processed’ through a birth machine. I knew that I wanted to give birth at home second time round and it was really important to me that I knew who was going to walk through the door on the day I was in labour. I was very fortunate that I met Kay at an information evening on waterbirth and she agreed to be my midwife when I became pregnant. Kay provided all my antenatal care at my home and she cared for me when I had my third baby as well – even better, all of this was provided free on the NHS! Kay got to know not just me, but my whole family.

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As a midwife I thought I knew all about continuity of care.

I trained in the heady days following the publication of Changing Childbirth. Dept of Health 1993. This introduced the concept of the three C’s, choice, continuity and control. At the time, numerous caseloading groups were set up to offer continuity. One midwife carrying a caseload of women for whom she is responsible. She plans and manages their care, is on call to them and together with a back up midwife and with access to specialist referrals she provides all the midwifery care. This was seen as the gold standard of midwifery care where a close trusting relationship could develop and all the evidence demonstrated improved outcomes for mother and baby as well as greater satisfaction for women and midwife.

So how is it that more than two decades on we are still chasing this elusive continuity?

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Today more than 300 women will give birth in London, many for the first time. An equal number will discover that they are pregnant.

What can they expect from the capital’s maternity services?

Well, we have an NHS which delivers safe care free at the point of delivery. In addition London has some of the leading Hospitals in the UK and they offer tests, techniques and technologies which are world class.


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So just who does decide how maternity services are organised in this country? And whose interests do they serve?

In 2012/13 maternity care cost the country £2.6 billion. The Department of Health is nominally responsible for securing value for money yet since April 2013 actual local maternity services have been commissioned by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who are in turn overseen by NHS England. Maternity care itself is currently provided by NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, although theoretically other providers are eligible to provide care.

Confused? I am not surprised, so are the experts.


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Me with my mother and baby sister

I was born at home in 1954, number four of six children and my mum’s midwife was called Constance Blackshaw. The reason I know her name is because I have a very special book – The Daily Missal – printed in 1927 and with a handwritten message in the front from Constance:

May 1955: Given to Ronald Francis, to whom Uncle Will was schoolmaster, and to his daughter Rosemary, at whose birth I was nurse. Constance Blackshaw

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We are delighted to welcome you to our new website which we hope you like as much as we do!

We have lots of exciting plans for the site…. if, for example, you have just found out you are expecting a baby, you might want to visit our pregnancy portal, a ‘one stop shop’ for all your questions and pregnancy information-gathering which will be launching in the near future.

As well as planning our brand new look, Neighbourhood Midwives has been having another busy year supporting lots of new families in the way we know best, from the beginning of their journey into parenthood and with their dedicated midwife alongside them at every step, sharing in the joys and the challenges in equal measure. Have a look at ‘Your experience’  to read what some of them have to say about the service we provide, or check out some of the birth stories for a more in depth exploration of just what a difference having an important relationship with your own midwife can have on your birth experience.

If you are interested to know more about what we have to offer – and to find out what might be the right choice for you please have a look through our beautiful bouquet of care packages.

The publication of the new national guidelines in December 2014 has underlined the importance of really taking time to investigate and think through what your options are – from who will be your caregivers to where will you plan to have your baby. What the evidence shows is that the choices you make really can make a difference to your experience!

We hope you enjoy looking around our new website and, if you have any comments or have any questions, please pick up the phone to speak to any of our midwives or send us an email enquiry and we will be happy to answer them as best we can.
Annie and the team at Neighbourhood Midwives

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