Who are we?
AIMS Ireland (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland) is a voluntary organisation with charity status which was formed in 2007 by women who saw a need for a consumer driven organisation to support a woman’s human rights and her choices in childbirth, highlight healthy internationally recognised evidence based birth practices, and to provide support and information to women accessing maternity services in Ireland.
AIMS Ireland is run by a dedicated small team of volunteers who work with women, organisations, academics, and health care providers, to ensure that women’s voices are included in the discussion on care provision and services in maternity care.
AIMS Ireland receives no funding. Running of the organisation is possible by voluntary work, donations, and membership fees of €30 per annum.
AIMS Ireland offer confidential support and information services to women and their families, assisting with complaints, offering assistance, and listening to women who need support following their experiences. The majority of women contacting AIMSI are looking for support in relation to traumatic birth experiences, many of whom complain of feeling undermined or not listened to during pregnancy, labour and birth. Recurring issues are the lack of informed consent and informed refusal in the Irish maternity setting.
AIMS Ireland lobby on the behalf of pregnant women at political and policy making tables. Campaigns focus on inequities of care, evidence based practices, unsafe practice for mothers and babies, recognition of women’s choices and informed consent, and seeking transparency and accountability of adverse events including psychological/physical maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. AIMS Ireland provide independent consultation and feedback as consumer representatives to ensure women’s perspective is included in debate and discussion. In addition, AIMS Ireland provide commentary to local and national media from a woman’s perspective.
AIMS Ireland are committed to providing women with free, easy to access information available on our website, social media forums, and blog. The “Healthy Birth Guide for the West of Ireland” was published for GP surgeries, antenatal clinics, and maternity units. Many AIMS Ireland articles have gained national attention, and “No Thank You – A Guide to Informed Decision Making” and “Becoming a Dad – 10 Tips for Birth” have been widely circulated and re-published with permission internationally. A chapter on AIMS Ireland was included in the book, “The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Mothers who Speak Out on Why We Need to Change the World and How To Do It” edited by Professor of Women Studies at York University Andrea O’ Reilly.
AIMS Ireland were honoured to be included in the #100IrishWomen social media campaign for our work in maternity rights.
Highlights of AIMS Ireland’s recent work:
2014 “What matters to YOU” survey
A key aspect of AIMS Ireland’s work is to conduct research on services and experiences from women whom have had a baby in Ireland. These surveys provide an insight into the care women receive, how women are treated, what is important to them, care of excellence, and where we can do better. AIMS Ireland’s most recent survey, “What Matters to YOU” 2014, looked at the care options available to women in their region, care options they would like to see available, their experiences of clinical care in pregnancy, birth, postnatal, how health care providers interacted and treated women, and aspects surrounding information and consent. Nearly 3,000 women took the time to fill in the survey. Results to be published in 2015!
Publication of Birth Statistics
In 2014, The Association of Improvements in Maternity Services, Ireland (AIMS Ireland) has today welcomed the publication by the HSE of detailed statistics from Ireland’s 19 public maternity units. The data includes information on C-section rates and obstetric interventions on a per hospital basis. This is the first time this complete dataset including all 19 units has ever been shared by the HSE. The data was released on foot of a request under the Freedom of Information Act following reports to AIMS Ireland that intervention rates were significantly above international guidelines. AIMS Ireland produced a series of infographics based on this data to help women make informed decisions about their maternity care.
42 Weeks Campaign
In June 2013, AIMS Ireland, launched a highly successful, innovative public information campaign for women having babies in Ireland. The campaign, called 42 weeks, focused on providing information and support to women and their partners so that they can put decisions about their maternity care firmly in their own hands, assisting them to make informed choices, and have the best possible birth outcomes for their babies and themselves, focusing on healthy births for babies AND mothers. 42 Weeks launched in June ran for 42 weeks, the length of a normal pregnancy, finishing up on Mother’s Day 2014. 42 Weeks consisted of information articles on topics relating to services, practice, and informed decision making. It also compiled an anthology of birth stories and photographs of women’s experiences of giving birth in Ireland which are published on the website and a dedicated 42 Weeks pintrest page.
From 42 Weeks: “Your experience of labour and birth should be just that — yours. Every birth is unique as each woman will approach childbirth in her own way. It is important that you have the information you need to decide what is right for you and your baby, and that your experience of labour and birth reflects these wants and wishes. Knowing all your care options and your rights, asking questions and, ultimately, finding a supportive care team, you can combine the ingredients for a healthy and a positive birth experience. 42 weeks aims to provide you with the information you need to make it as positive an experience as possible.” 42 weeks: www.42weeks.ie
Shout Back – Your Say
In response to comments made by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at the Labour Women’s 2014 conference about the safety of the maternity services in Ireland, women and staff contacted AIMS Ireland in their hundreds to share their negative experiences of maternity services in Ireland and communicate how they felt silenced by Ministerial comments.
The AIMS Ireland Facebook page was overwhelmed with harrowing and difficult stories of traumatic events that women have experienced during the birth of their babies. To support them, AIMS Ireland created a space called “SHOUT BACK – YOUR SAY” whereby women and staff could contact us in confidence to share their stories. The response was tremendous with hundreds of stories shared from women and midwives.
It is so important that these women are heard and their experiences are validated. It is not enough that we have set the bar of a positive birth outcome at a living mother and baby.
“AIMS Ireland urge every politician, every health care provider and the HSE to read these stories and listen to what women are telling them. There are serious problems endemic across the maternity system that need to be addressed urgently. AIMS Ireland has repeatedly raised these issues on local and national levels including current and former Minister for Health and HIQA. We hear these stories daily. Women and midwives have had enough – they are shouting back and breaking the silence on unsafe and non-evidence based maternity care in Ireland. We once again call on the Minister for Health and the HSE to implement an immediate review of the maternity services in Ireland as recommended by the HIQA report. Our model of care is broken and choice in maternity care is almost non-existent.”
Maternal Deaths in Ireland
AIMS Ireland has been highly critical of CSO statistics for maternal deaths in Ireland for many years. The CSO figures, often cited by Government officials, are incomplete and do not reflect true numbers. The Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry Report 2009-2011 outlines the inconsistencies in criteria for reporting maternal deaths in Ireland compared to the UK and many other countries. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is much higher than previously thought once data collection has been controlled in an empirically accurate and robust manner. Figures show a jump from 4 /100,000 to 8/100,000 once the proper criteria are used to collect maternal death statistics.
AIMS Ireland have been very vocal on maternal death inquests, calling for independent reviews and highlighting unsafe practice. AIMSI were instrumental in calling for an inquest into the death of Bimbo Onanuga, which was only granted following lobbying by AIMS Ireland.
AIMS Ireland have been critical in the way safety is measured only in terms of maternal death by Government representatives. Maternal death is an outdated way of measuring safety in maternity care. With our advanced technology, access to health care, and protection from things like disease/malnutrition/poor hygiene is a low standard to set. Maternal Death statistics do not include the near misses or women and babies with psychological or physical morbidity, which affects quality of life significantly.
Read More in our post, “Ireland’s Maternal Death Rate – Depends on who you are asking.” http://aimsireland.ie/irelands-maternal-death-rate-depends-on-who-you-are-asking/
National Consent Policy and Ramifications of Article 40.3.3 on Birth Choices
Aims Ireland as an organisation is committed to supporting all women in all choices in maternal health, autonomy for women, and evidence based care practices in issues surrounding maternity services. Maternal health and maternity services covers a wide spectrum of care and care options from fertility, reproductive health, pregnancy, labour, birth, postpartum and beyond.
AIMS Ireland firmly believes that in order to offer full support to women and campaign for improvements in maternity services, we must recognise all women in their right to autonomy of choice. The 8th Amendment of the Constitution, Article 40.3.3, affects all pregnant women, their birth choices, their right to accept or refuse a test or treatment, their right to individual assessment, their right to be pregnant or not.
Every woman should feel safe to make the best decisions for her and her baby. She knows her body and her baby best. She knows where she feels safest. Only she knows what she is feeling – what she is experiencing. She is the one who must be responsible for her own decisions . Medical professionals are there to guide her – support her – but cannot make these decisions for her. Women should not be asked to give the decisions which will impact on her and her baby away to others. AIMS Ireland believe that women should be provided with the best information possible, based on high quality evidence, to help her make the best choices for her and her baby and these choices should be supported.
The HSE have recently published a National Consent Policy that restricts informed consent and informed refusal of treatment for pregnant women. It is important that all women are aware of this new Consent Policy and the legal ramifications of the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution) on their right to informed decision making in their maternity care. See page 41, Section 7.7.1: “because of the Constitutional provisions on the right to life of the unborn [Article 40.3.3] there is significant legal uncertainty regarding a pregnant woman’s right to [consent]”
In 2014, AIMS Ireland members voted unanimously to campaign for repealing the 8th Amendment in order to fully support women and their choices in reproductive and maternity care. AIMS Ireland are members of the Repeal the 8th Campaign.
AIMS Ireland Submissions
In 2013, AIMS Ireland made submissions to the Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children Report on Public Hearings on the implementation of the Government decision following the publication of the Expert Group Report on A, B, & C vs Ireland and the public hearings by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on the heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.
The full submissions can be read here: