Birth is a human rights issue

Dear friends,

I am typing up my notes from the amazing international Midwifery Today conference in Belgium, but as I did so I could not but share right away this declaration of mother/baby birth rights.  It is powerful stuff.  Sisters and brothers we must use it to ensure each woman and baby gets the care she needs.  Alongside the rights, is a 10 step strategic programme of implementation which every maternity service can use to apply these basic mother/baby rights.  For more information go to http://www.imbci.org/

MotherBaby Rights

  1. You and your baby have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
  2. You have the right to be involved in and fully informed about care for yourself and your baby.
  3. You have the right to be communicated with in a language and in terminology that you understand.
  4. You have the right to informed consent and to informed refusal for any treatment, procedure or other aspect of care for yourself and your baby.
  5. You and your baby have the right to receive care that enhances and optimizes the normal processes of pregnancy, birth and postpartum under a model known as the midwifery (or motherbaby) model of care.
  6. You and your baby have the right to receive continuous support during labor and birth from those you choose.
  7. You have the right to be offered drug-free comfort and pain-relief measures during labor and to have the benefits of these measures and the means of their use explained to you and to your companions.
  8. You and your baby have the right to receive care consisting of evidence-based practices proven to be beneficial in supporting the normal physiology of labor, birth and postpartum.
  9. You and your baby have the right to receive care that seeks to avoid potentially harmful procedures and practices.
  10. You have the right to receive education concerning a healthy environment and disease prevention.
  11. You have the right to receive education regarding responsible sexuality, family planning and women’s reproductive rights, as well as access to family planning options.
  12. You have the right to receive supportive prenatal, intrapartum, postpartum and newborn care that addresses your physical and emotional health within the context of family relationships and your community environment.
  13. You and your baby have the right to evidenced-based emergency treatment for life-threatening complications.
  14. You and your baby have the right to be cared for by a small number of caregivers who collaborate across disciplinary, cultural and institutional boundaries and who provide consultations and facilitate transfers of care when necessary to appropriate institutions and specialists.
  15. You have the right to be made aware of and to be shown how to access available community services for yourself and your baby.
  16. You and your baby have the right to be cared for by practitioners with knowledge of and the skills to support breastfeeding.
  17. You have the right to be educated concerning the benefits and the management of breastfeeding and to be shown how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if you and your baby must be separated for medical reasons.
  18. You and your baby have the right to initiate breastfeeding within the first 30 minutes after birth, to remain together skin-to-skin for at least the first hour, to stay together 24 hours a day and to breastfeed on demand.
  19. Your baby has the right to be given no artificial teats or pacifiers and to receive no food or drink other then breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  20. You have the right to be referred to a breastfeeding support group, if available, upon discharge from the birthing facility.

Associated IMBCI Step

  1. Step 1   Treat every woman with respect and dignity.
  2. Step 1
  3. Step 1
  4. Step 1
  5. Step 2   Possess and routinely apply midwifery knowledge and skills that optimize the normal physiology of birth and breastfeeding.
  6. Step 3   Inform the mother of the benefits of continuous support during labour and birth, and affirm her right to receive such support from companions of her choice. 
  7. Step 4   Provide drug-free comfort and pain relief methods during labour, explaining their benefits for facilitating normal birth.
  8. Step 5   Provide evidence-based practices proven to be beneficial.
  9. Step 6   Avoid potentially harmful procedures and practices.
  10. Step 7   Implement measures that enhance wellness and prevent illness and emergencies.
  11. Step 7   Implement measures that enhance wellness and prevent illness and emergencies.
  12. Step 7   Implement measures that enhance wellness and prevent illness and emergencies.
  13.  Step 8   Provide access to evidence-based skilled emergency treatment.
  14. Step 9   Provide a continuum of collaborative care with all relevant health care providers, institutions, and organizations. 
  15. Step 9   Provide a continuum of collaborative care with all relevant health care providers, institutions, and organizations. 
  16. Step 10 Strive to achieve the BFHI 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. 
  17. Step 10  
  18. Step 10  
  19. Step 10  
  20. Step 10  

Our thanks to Marcia Westmoreland, Robbie Davis-Floyd, and Rodolfo Gomez for their work on extrapolating these MotherBaby Rights from the text of the IMBCI.

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