A favorite resource for both myself as a childbirth educator and one that I share frequently with families in my classes has long been Childbirth Connection. Since 1918, when this organization was founded and known as the Maternity Center Association, they have been a "national voice for safe, effective and satisfying evidence based maternity care." Childbirth Connection accomplishes this by highlighting current issues and obstacles in maternity care, sharing evidence based information in easy to read and understand downloadable handouts and partnering with other organizations, including Lamaze International to lobby for and promote evidence based care for women and their families in the childbearing year.
You may be familiar with Childbirth Connection as the organization that has been conducting and publishing the landmark Listening to Mothers Surveys and Reports since the first of the LTM reports was published in 2002. These comprehensive reports questioned mothers about their experiences from preconception through the postpartum period and shed light on many issues - including how much of the care women are receiving is not based on evidence and how limited many of the choices women are given for options while receiving care. Information discovered through the surveys and published in the LTM reports has been enlightening and sometime shocking, as it highlighted the "real life" experiences of women around the country - who are experiencing maternity care currently in the USA.
Earlier this year, Childbirth Connection announced that they are becoming a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington DC based organization founded in 1971, whose mission is to improve health for women and families, and make the nation's workplaces more fair and family friendly. Each organization brings different strengths to the collaboration. Childbirth Connection has a long history of clinical and research focus programs based on evidence based care, while the National Partnership has long established relationships with policy makers. The fit is a natural one that will benefit American women and mothers and improve maternity care in the USA.
One of the first publications released by Childbirth Connection, under the umbrella of the National Partnership for Women & Families, was a report; "Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace." This report was prepared from information gathered during the most recent LTM III survey.
Some key findings from this report include:
- Holding a job during pregnancy is the new normal. In fact, women are the primary or sole breadwinner in over 40% of families with children.
- Women often need minor adjustments on the job to protect their health during pregnancy. 71% of women needed more frequent bathroom break and 61% of women needed some schedule modification or time off in order to attend crticial prenatal health care appointments.
- Pregnant women's need for accommodation often goes unspoken and may be unmet, or are often denied. Many women do not speak up out of fear of repercussions, refusal or uncertainty about how their request will be viewed.
- Less economically advantaged women are in greater need of accommodation than more advantaged women. Women of color, lower educated women and women who held part time jobs needed more accomodation.
- Upon returning to work, new mothers experience bias, lost pay, loss of responsibilities and other actions, including losing their job altogether. More than one in four women reported experiencing bias from their employers due to perceptions of their desire, ability, or commitment to doing their jobs.
- Breastfeeding remains a challenge for employed new mothers. 58% of women reported that breastfeeding while employed presented obstacles, including employers not providing an appropriate clean and private location or adequate breaks in which to express milk.
As childbirth educators, the women in our classes most likely are working outside the home and many will return to work after having their children. These are issues that they will face no matter where they are located in the USA, and as educators we can sympathize with their situation and provide concrete resources to help them problem solve solutions. The National Partnership for Women & Families/Childbirth Connection should be on the short list as a great resource for these women. We can also share our own tips, encourage discussion amongst the families and help prepare them for some of the above challenges that they may face.
Congratulations to Childbirth Connection on this new opportunity! I am looking forward to reading and sharing future work done by your organization and in cooperation with the National Partnership for Women & Families. Educators and others - what information do you feel is important to share with your families about working while pregnant, returning to work after birth and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship once your students are working again. Comment with your suggestions, advice and resources, so that we can all offer the best information to all families.
Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Herrlich, A. (2013). Listening to Mothers III: New Mothers Speak Out. New York, NY: Childbirth Connection.