Bishop's Stortford mum uses her own experience of having a baby in a pandemic to give others a maternity voice
A young mother from Bishop's Stortford is using her experience of giving birth in a pandemic to ensure women's voices are heard to help improve maternity services.
Chloe Ribeiro, 28, had her second son, Malakai, in January after an extremely anxious nine months of having to deal with hospital appointments and scans without her husband, Thiago, present due to coronavirus restrictions.
Now, with her new babe-in-arms and three-year-old Mateo at home too, she has stepped up to co-chair the West Essex branch of the Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP), which serves Harlow's Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT). Working alongside co-chair Verity Noates, their aim is to ensure that families are given more choice and easy access to support.
Chloe is particularly keen to hear from minority ethnic and LGBT groups or those on lower incomes who are often at higher risk when it comes to pregnancy. The risk of death during childbirth is five times more likely among black women – a statistic she wants to change.
"We're trying to reach these groups to hear how services can be improved for them – it's about hearing the voices even if those voices are just a whisper," she said.
"We work with the service users and with the hospital trust, acting as a middle man really. It's about giving people a channel for feedback about their experiences and finding out what areas need improving.
"I didn't know about the MVP with my first child, but with my second it was amazing. It helped me in a number of ways through my pregnancy, particularly knowing who to contact. It was helpful for finding out about Covid restrictions, so I got involved with the group that way."
Chloe recalled: "The Covid restrictions for me meant my pregnancy was extremely anxious.
"My partner couldn't go to any of the scans or ante-natal appointments – I had to have consultant appointments on my own, which was really hard.
"I had a C-section with my first at the Rosie at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge so was more anxious being in the middle of a pandemic with my second.
"It was also not knowing what was going to happen when baby was born. In the end I had a home birth, which was a silver lining. I had the same midwife throughout the pregnancy who gave me the confidence to ask for a home birth and was there with me.
"I didn't have to go into hospital at all and it's all about choice, looking at whether women have felt they have had a choice."
The West Essex branch of the MVP covers Harlow, Uttlesford and Epping. It advises NHS organisations in West Essex on all aspects of maternity care, bringing together those who use the services and the healthcare professionals people who plan and deliver them, in order to bring about improvements and to ensure parents' views are taken into account.
It says: "In particular, we listen to and speak for people who use maternity services. We’d really like to hear what you think about your maternity care – before, during and after your baby’s birth. What you tell us will help in shaping local maternity services now and for the future."
Chloe urged maternity service users to step forward with their first-hand accounts, adding that the particular area of concern at the moment centred on coronavirus.
"Since coming into the role we've been very focused on Covid restrictions and when they'll be lifted, and that's a massive part of what we've been doing recently," she said. "It is easing, now partners can go to all scans and attend ante-natal appointments, and have one-hour visiting slots on the wards."