Posted on 7.30.2012 by Kelly
Much to my excitement, it was recently announced that the BBC show Call the Midwife is coming to PBS this fall. I was able to get my hands on this show last winter and absolutely loved it. Apparently British viewers loved it too as it received higher ratings than Downtown Abbey did in its first season. Call the Midwife is based on the memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth, and follows a group of young, bicycle-riding midwives who worked for England's National Health Service (NHS) in the East End of London in the 1950's. Beyond the personal dramas of the midwives and the nuns they live with, the show presents an intimate look at the struggles faced by the neighborhood's working class residents. Lack of knowledge and access to birth control, single parenthood, forced surrender of babies by young unwed mothers, postpartum depression, and preeclampsia are all issues encountered by the midwives and members of the community.
One thing I love about Call the Midwife is its illustration of a community-based midwifery model. In this model, nurses provide group care in prenatal clinics, one-on-one support during labor and birth in the birthing person's home, and postpartum house calls. Support for emergencies beyond the midwives' scope of practice is provided by a general practice doctor who has a collaborative rather than adversarial relationship with the midwives. Although the NHS has moved away from community-based midwifery in recent decades, there is a burgeoning movement to revive this model in England. Annie Francis, program director for one such community-minded London organization called Neighbourhood Midwives describes the model as follows: "We'll be an option for women who are low-risk and initially at least, our services are likely to only be available to those having second or third babies. Once they've booked with us, we'll guarantee that they'll be seen by a midwife they know, whether it's in their home or in a clinic, every single time they need to see a professional during their pregnancy, birth and afterwards. If their needs change and they need to see an obstetrician, we'll go with them. If they end up needing a caesarean section, we'll still be there by their side.”
As I previously wrote about, the state of care for childbearing people in the United States leaves much to be desired. Perhaps the one-on-one, community-based care depicted in Call the Midwife can help provide the template for a new reproductive health care system in this country. As this article from Think Progress states, “Call the Midwife is a reminder both that expanding access to care dramatically changes the lives of people who benefit from it, and requires both the medical professionals who treat them and the patients themselves to make cultural adjustments.” Here's hoping that Call the Midwife is just as popular in the United States as it has been in Britain and that it serves as an inspiration for drastically changing our model of reproductive health care.