Project MAMA is a registered charity based in Bristol launched in March 2018 that offers free, confidential and individual-focused holistic support to displaced people throughout pregnancy, labour and childbirth, and those first few weeks of parenthood.
We currently support pregnant refugees, asylum-seekers, survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking and other displaced women. We focus on this demographic because of the extreme difficulty they can have accessing the NHS, the language barriers they face and the extreme social isolation they may experience.
Project MAMA is a hive of midwives, activists, doulas and birth companions who form a peer network of skills, support and solidarity for women and their children. Our ethos is to encourage independence and bolster natural resilience people have by providing a safe and nurturing space to unpack ideas and wishes around birth & support in early parenthood. We are a network based on sorority, promoting a women and birthing people’s right to choose and we facilitate community. We promote an understanding of a person’s rights and entitlements surrounding perinatal healthcare in these challenging times.
Why we do this
Preparing for birth and life with a new baby can be a daunting and challenging time for anyone, let alone with additional complexities of outstanding immigration concerns, acclimatising to a new country or city, and navigating complexities amidst pre-existing mental health issues or recovering from trauma.
Additionally some of the people who reach for our support often have no family members or community around them during pregnancy, labour and the crucial weeks after birth. This can be an incredibly isolating and lonely experience for anyone and we work together to ensure mothers have this community when they need it most.
We’ve seen first hand how displaced people, particularly women and birthing people, can have difficulties in accessing healthcare in the UK. We are understanding increasingly the impact of archaic and institutional racisms which pervade institutions in the UK. Alarmingly, women from migrant backgrounds are 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. Maternal mortality in this specific demographic is also disproportionally high. (Source: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2015).
In addition, as a direct result of forced migration and the highly vulnerable situations women find themselves in subsequently, two thirds of women refugees in the UK are the survivors of sexual assault, of which pregnancy can be a consequence. (Source: Reproductive Health Matters, 2015). We’re working to raise awareness of these issues and speak to advocacy and change.
At Project MAMA we recognise the multiple challenges refugee women have endured on their journey to safety and we work reverently to ensure they have equal access to healthcare and the support they need when they most need it. We have provide expertise and knowledge of how exactly trauma can impact a person’s experience not only in the birth room, but in the time before and after giving birth.