By Lucy Frith
The last meeting of our COST Action was held in Crete. There is rarely time to explore where we are and do the usual tourist pursuits at these meetings, but after the meeting had ended we had a wonderful tour round Knossos – finding out about the Minoan civilisation and how, among other things, they invented the aqueduct and the flushing toilet! It was a well-deserved rest after three days of hard work, a lot of talking, writing, discussion and planning. Our working group focuses on the socio-cultural aspects of birth, aspects that contextualize labour and birth, how social and cultural factors affect how women birth in different settings. It is an exciting area and the challenge is focusing our work and choosing the key issues so that we can really change practice and improve birth experiences for women.
Our working group is conducting a range of projects (see the power point outlining our plans) and one of our key areas is how to improve care for migrant women. One sub-group is considering how terms such a ‘migrant’ are defined and investigating access policies for migrant women across Europe. Other sub-groups are considering how satisfaction and experience of maternity care is measured so that we can develop more robust ways of determining different women’s experiences of their maternity care, and how this information can be used to guide future approaches. We also have a sub-group looking at values and how these are operationalised in maternity care. For example, we are looking at conscientious objection and how the different regulations across Europe affect midwifery practice. All this work in enriched by having members from countries across Europe (Italy, Germany, Turkey, Croatia, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, Czech Republic, and Estonia). Having this range of countries as well as different disciplinary experiences – the working group includes members who are midwives, doctors, sociologists, bioethicists, anthropologists and psychologists – means that our work can be really informed by a diversity of views, perspectives and insights from very different systems of maternity care and the diversity of values that underpin these different systems.
We are already half way through our Action and the time has flown by. We still have a lot to do but the great working relationships established and the commitment to make significant contributions to this area bodes well. Our next meeting is in Florence in October 2017 and between now and then we will submit some of our work to journals for publication and plan our next steps to take this work forward – finding future ways to work together in these challenging times.