AIMS – Am I Allowed Book Review

Published by Samantha on

Absolutely essential reading for any birthing woman and her birth partner.

AIMS – Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services. An organisation that their website says

“AIMS … at the forefront of the childbirth movement for more than fifty years.

  • Working towards normal birth
  • Providing independent support and information about maternity choices
  • Raising awareness of current research on childbirth and related issues
  • Protecting women’s human rights in childbirth

They do all these things and they do them well.

Click HERE for more information on National and Local Birth Pool and Tens hire.

I love the AIMS books, all of them, they are concise, to the point, are well referenced and they make their point without dramatisation. Am I Allowed is no different, it is broken down into manageable sections and is written in fairly plain English. 

I believe all are about considering getting pregnant, newly pregnant or are close to and supportive of a birthing mother should read this book. Its author, Beverley Beech was the honorary chair of AIMS and a long time birth activist, her personal birthing experience moved from Birth Trauma to Positive Birth and since then she has campaigned, through her work with AIMS and her writings and public speaking, to help women make their births a positive experience.

The book begins with a list of acronyms which sets the tone really. Its a confusing world, MLU, CLU, VBAC, what are these, this book recognises that women need clear information.

It considers informed over coerced consent, and implants the idea that women are allowed to ask questions, that they are concerned about their baby and that in a busy maternity unit consent for procedures is often assumed. It then concludes its introduction with a very disturbing set of statistics about rates of normal, intervention free birth.

The book makes it clear that is it often hospital protocol that dictates what procedures are followed without reference to what is best for a particular individual and ends with “if you want a normal birth you will need to understand the difference between the rhetoric and the reality of birth in the UK and in the majority of UK Hospitals”.

If you have a life, birth or other story you will like to share, please contact me HERE. 

Am I Allowed  runs in bite sized chunks right from Confirming Your Pregnancy, through Maternity and Employment Rights, and covers grants, benefits and paperwork. If lets you know what you are entitled to and what you can turn down.

It then runs through Ante Natal Screening and clearly explains current tests, including a handy section on BMI, and provides concise lists of questions to ask providers, promoting normality, for example suggesting considering scanning for placenta previa should wait until 39 weeks, what it does not do is make statements about what is best to do.

The following section covers place of birth and the various options, again suggesting questions and making it clear that women can change their minds and reiterates the continuing message that protocols are “guidance for staff ……not rules for you to follow”.

It moves onto choosing your care provider, including the role of Independent Midwives which is missing from much literature about childbirth (and hopefully the insurance issue will be resolved very soon). It then covers the role of periphery professionals such as Health Visitors. There is included in this a very interesting section on the rights of professionals to enter your home.

There follows separate sections on Home Birth and Free Birth and advice on how to deal with blockages to accessing these as well as what to do if the Trust refuses to send someone to carry out the post natal check on the baby.

I particularly like the information on planning a hospital birth, how to get the hospital of your choice and the restrictions placed on some women in various places of birth. Under Planning a Normal Birth, Beverley runs through many of the standard procedures carried out in hospital, considers the implications of having a birth plan and consistently encourages women to ask questions, she looks at issues around privacy, time restraints, pain relief and the impact of culture on women’s expectations.

I was also pleased to read the section on “Stretch and Sweep” under induction, so often this intervention is by passed as being nothing. It covers basic things women may not think of such as eating and drinking.

These are followed by a section on Caesarean Birth, including how to access one and after a previous one, and then water birth and 2 short but extremely important paragraphs concerning consent, moving onto discussing your rights in various situations, including your right to stay in hospital for longer than your care providers may wish, more things that woman may not have thought of, who considers that they may want to stay in hospital longer and that is what is great about this book – it makes women realise they can ask questions and demand what is best for them.

The book also covers both overdue and premature birth and also what to do once your baby is born, including Feeding Choices, Vitamin K and Vaccinations. Sadly but importantly there are then sections on loss, stillbirth, miscarriage and neonatal death at home as well as PND and PTSD. Also covered is how to make a complaint.

This is an excellent book, and one which I lend to many women, it is my belief that once we implant the thought and knowledge that we can challenge medical professionals and ask questions of them, that we have the right to a voice in our own care, that we have already better enabled women to take positive roles and ownership of their pregnancies and births, and that this book – AM I ALLOWED, plays a pivotal role in doing just that.

You can buy Am I Allowed from the AIMS website or hire it from me for £2.50 (free to clients). I am always grateful for donations of copies as it is my most used book and my copies are always disappearing.

Samantha Gadsden walks with women on their life’s journeys. She is an experienced Doula, based close to Cardiff in South Wales, mother to 4 children and wife to Eddie, more information can be found on her facebook page, Samantha Gadsden Doula and her website, Caerphilly DoulaSOS DoulaTelephone and online support is always available.

If you are interested in writing a guest blog or sharing a life or birth story please feel free to contact her HERE.

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