Project MAMA is a registered charity launched in March 2018 that offers a free, confidential and individual-focused holistic support to displaced people throughout pregnancy, labour and child birth, and those first few weeks of parenthood.
We support refugees, asylum-seekers, survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking and other displaced women. We focus on this demographic because of the extreme difficulty women and birthing people can have accessing the NHS, the language barriers they are facing and the extreme social isolation they experience.
Project MAMA is a hive of midwives, activists, doulas and birth companions as part of a peer network of skills, support and solidarity for women and their children. Our ethos is to encourage independence and bolster resilience in people by providing a safe and nurturing space. We promote informed choices, enable access to a hub of peer support and we promote an understanding of woman’s rights and entitlements surrounding perinatal healthcare in these challenging times.
Why we need to do this
The trauma women and birthing people can experience on their journey to the UK and often once they have arrived can cause many to suffer from extreme mental health issues. Additionally some of the people seeking our support often have no family members or community around them during pregnancy, labour and the crucial weeks after birth. This can be a terrifying and lonely experience for any new mama, let alone alongside immigration pressures and stresses.
People who are seeking asylum and have uncertain immigration status can have difficulties in accessing healthcare in the UK. As such, women from a migrant background are three times more likely to die in childbirth and four times more likely to suffer postnatal depression than their UK-born peers. Their babies are more likely to be stillborn or born prematurely, to have a low birth weight, or to have birth defects. (Source: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2015).
Furthermore, two thirds of women refugees are the survivors of sexual assault as a direct result of forced migration, of which pregnancy can be a consequence. (Source: Reproductive Health Matters, 2015)
We think this is unacceptable and we are working reverently to ensure everyone have equal access to perinatal healthcare and have support when they most need it.
Project MAMA addresses these issues and bridges this gap so mamas have the support they need during the maternity period. Project MAMA provides crucial antenatal, birth and postnatal support to asylum-seekers and refugees in Bristol.
Our Guiding Principles
Solidarity not Charity – We show active solidarity with marginalised migrant people in Bristol. We are person-focused and so are able to meet the diverse needs of those we serve.
Radical nurturing Our practice is built on the fundamental belief that all mothers-to-be need compassion, support, care, and space leading up to the birth of their children. It is our belief that everyone has the right to be supported through their pregnancy and beyond in order to harness their power and to give birth safely, in spite of political barriers.
Bolstering of resilience Despite the serious challenges that mamas face, they often exhibit strength and resilience. People accessing Project MAMA come from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds which hold knowledge of valuable birthing practices. We honour their rich lived experiences, culture, and knowledge and promote this in the work we do.
Growing community Project MAMA is informed by the community it serves. Connecting women in a safe space allows for peer support and supportive friendships to thrive. It supports the building of an interdependent community where bonds are made through the shared experience of being and becoming mothers.
Championing Cultural Safety We practice in a way that promotes shared respect and a person’s unique identity, with a focus on trust, transparency and what they need to feel both emotionally and physically safe. We examine our own cultural identities and attitudes and are open-minded and flexible in our attitudes towards all people.