Mark your diary for the #BirthTraumaChat

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Maybe even since that first night at home with my newborn son. The weight of his little body wrapped in a blanket, warm against my skin. The chill of the air around me in a house that had been empty for hours. The enormity of what was happening pressing down on me. And in that moment, there with my son, I had never felt so alone. There had been- and continued to be- streams of visitors coming in and out to see us. Cards, presents, well wishes. Phone calls, flowers and little bags filled with ‘goodies’. Tiny little vests, cuddly bears and pictures drawn at school for the new baby brother. And yet I felt so alone, so isolated, and so very scared.

mark your diary for the birth trauma chatBringing my son home from the hospital was not a happy occasion. And I hate admitting that. Instead of looking down at his beautiful face, my eyes were drawn to the ugly bruises that snaked from my neck down to my knees. Instead of breathing in the scent of his beautiful body, all I could breathe in was the acrid odour of a sterile operating theatre. Instead of loving my beautiful baby, I was filling up with hatred for myself.

I was alone. I was broken.

And since then I have searched for people who understand. I’ve found them too. Readers who understood my rambled blog posts. Other writers, scratching away at their own wounds. The Birth Trauma Association group. Friends at toddler groups. More recently, friends who have formed the #MatExp campaign and taken it further than I ever imagined was possible.

When Elsie first came home from the hospital the darkness threatened to take over me again. And one lady in particular saw that. I don’t know how, but she did. Emma would message me words of encouragement, advice and support. She didn’t know me, and yet she took time from her life to hold my hand. I will always be grateful for that. And when I got to know her, I discovered that she understood more about me that I realised. She has her own story to tell, and I hope that one day she will share it here.

Emma writes at Unfold Your Wings, a blog dedicated towards sharing the stories of women who have suffered a traumatic birth, and PTSD as a result. Emma understands.

Next week, Emma and I are launching the #BirthTraumaChat on Twitter. It is what I was looking for all those years ago, as I sat in the silence of isolation.

Our aim is to provide a safe place for women and families to come and talk about their feelings surrounding birth trauma. Professionals are also welcome to join in the conversation; we want to break down barriers and open up pathways to learn more on both sides. We want all to feel welcome. Most of all, we want to be there.

We hope you’ll join us next Monday at 8pm. We’ll be asking the question `what is birth trauma?


Caesarean, Labour, Maternity Matters, Parenting, Pregnancy

Nothing is perfect

Nothing is perfect. To be perfect a thing must be completely and utterly flawless. Not a thing to be changed. No second thoughts, no ‘if onlys’ and no regrets. Nothing can be that way, and certainly nothing in the labour and delivery room. We can have our ideals, our plans and our preferences, but there will always be something that doesn’t sit right. As is life. As are humans. As it should be.

Nothing is perfect_MaternityMatters.net

If we all walked around being perfect all the time, there would be no room for improvement. Nothing to work towards. Nothing to learn. We’d be done. And if we truly did have the ‘perfect birth’ what kind of pressure does that then put us under as we enter the incredibly challenging post natal period?

Nothing can be perfect. We should not want it to be.

I’ve had four very different c-sections and while my third was what I called (at the time) my healing birth, it wasn’t perfect. It was outstanding in comparison to my second birth, but it wasn’t perfect. I can still taste the fear I felt as I walked into the theatre. Legs shaking and teeth chattering. Knowing what was going to happen. Knowing they would put knife to skin. Knowing it could all go wrong. It didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from thinking it could’ve been different. I didn’t want to be in that situation again. Next time, I wanted a perfect birth.

Birth Stories, Editorial, Maternity Matters

Maternity Matters link up: Birth stories

Welcome to the new Maternity Matters!

Maternity Matters link up: birth stories~ MaternityMatters.net
Please bear with us while we iron out any design/ teething problems. We have a few new pages to add too, and some updates to make, but hopefully we’ll be up and running perfectly in no time at all!

Over the last six or so months the Maternity Matters link up has been running on Ghostwritermummy and Mums the Word and we’ve found it a privilege to share in so many of your journeys- such varied maternity experiences, pregnancy journals and stories of post natal experiences! Thank you each and every one of you for linking up.

From now on, the Maternity Matters link up will be hosted here, and it will be once a month, running on a theme with #BlogBumpClub. We thought this would be the ideal way to gather together your stories and involve more of the blogging community too.

This month we are linking up birth stories. If you would like to join in, please do. Each and every birth experience is welcomed as the purpose of this link up is to highlight the many varying degrees of childbirth.


Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy

Link as many posts as you like, old or new, and grab the badge while you’re at it so that others can join in too. Please visit as many other posts as you can- spread the love!
Thanks for dropping by…

Birth Stories, Birth Trauma Stories, Caesarean

When birth trauma creeps up on you

This post first appeared on Ghostwritermummy

Sometimes things in life creep up on you. You don’t see them lurking around the corner, breathing silently in the deep of the night.



You don’t realise that all the things you’ve been saying and writing and believing are not actually true. None of it. Or some of it. It’s all so muddled you’re not actually sure any more.


What Screening Tests Will I Have During Pregnancy?

prenatal screeningToday, we’re hosting a guest post to give you some info on what tests to expect during pregnancy

During your pregnancy you will make frequent visits to your health care provider to carry out standard screening tests. These are used to identify any potential complications and defects at the earliest possible chance. It is not a diagnostic assessment, and no results are conclusive but abnormal tests will warrant further, possibly more invasive tests. Depending on what stage you’re at, you will undergo different types of screening tests that can be carried out in private sexual health clinic such as Blossoms Healthcare or in your local public health centre.

Birth Stories, Birth Trauma Stories, Caesarean

When Maternity Staff Stop Listening

Today, we’re hosting a guest post by a very brave lady who was completely let down by the Irish Medical System and most of the maternity staff who were present during her labour. Sadly, here at Maternity Matters, we hear stories like this one all too often, which is part of the reason we started this site, to give women a voice.

At forty one weeks I started leaking on Portmarnock beach on the Friday of the June bank holiday in 2011.

It was just little gushes. I had already got them about two months before and I told my midwife.I told her that it wasn’t urine- it was coming from my vagina not my urethra.

She laughed at me.

‘How would you even know that?’, she queried, looking at me like I was an idiot.

‘It’s just incontinence due to the pressure. Do your kegels’

I knew she was wrong, deep down, but I accepted what she said and told my body to shut up.

Issue No1: Some maternity staff do not respect that a woman might actually know her body better than anyone else in the world.

When I leaked on Portmarnock beach I assumed it was further incontinence seen as it was the same sensation as before but just more fluid. After two days of this sensation, I rang the hospital.They brought me in to the antenatal ward and I was registered by the day shift midwife.

She noticed that I had gestational diabetes on my form and asked me ‘do you have gestational diabetes?’. I said no. I told her that they rang me with my results and as my blood sugars was 7.1 the midwife said, casually, that I was only on the cusp and that reducing sugar in my diet would help.I had a missed call from the diabetic clinic the next day. I left two messages over two days and never got a call back. I left one message a week for three weeks until I gave up calling.I was under the impression that I hadn’t really been diagnosed based on the casual conversation over the phone and that adjustments to my diet would suffice.

The day shift midwife, leafing through my file, paused and slowly rolled her eyes up toward me and through pierced lips snapped “You have gestational diabetes”.

“First time I’ve been diagnosed”, thought I, instantly feeling very vulnerable and not safe with this midwife, who as it turns out would be the one to ‘care’ for me in my pre-labour state the next day.

Issue No2: Maternity staff do not always agree on everything and therefore the patient gets conflicted advice.

Issue No3: Some maternity staff are unnecessarily harsh, firm and old fashioned in their approach. Their approach is one of ‘I have power over your wellbeing’.

Many first time mothers do not realise that they have rights or a voice when confronted with staff like this, especially in their vulnerable state. That evening at shift change the air changed with it and a breezy, bright and wonderfully maternal voice sang through the ward. Fiona was her name. I will never forget her name. She introduced herself to everyone on the ward, individually.

Issue No4: In my whole ten months visiting the hospital, only two members of staff (excluding the obstetrician being introduced by his assistant) ever told me their name. I had to read people’s names off my chart or a name badge if I wanted to know it.

Fiona was like an angel. Her voice was soothing, caring and I could feel my body relax instantly.When she checked to see how dilated I was I felt nothing- she was that gentle and I was that trusting of her.

Issue No5: There are some staff who actually want to be there. They could be stuck sitting in an office or on a post-labour ward. The antenatal ward needs staff like this as women are at their most vulnerable pre-labour.
The next morning the obstetrician came around to break my waters.

I cried and took deep breaths. I felt so invaded and rushed. I felt like an animal or a test subject.Afterward, he tapped my knee, looked me in the eye and said ‘sorry’. I instantly relaxed.

Issue No6: It is a rarity for staff to take the time to give you your integrity back after having their hands and tools up your vagina, fiddling with an internal organ.

Within twenty minutes of having my waters broke I started getting contractions and instantly felt the heavy pressure down below. It wasn’t anything to shout home about for six more hours and so the day shift midwife slapped on some of the gel around 3pm with a sour look on her face that could only be translated as ‘your body is so disgusting, I can’t believe I have to do this. You are incredibly hideous’

For fifteen hours I ‘laboured’.

I leave that word in inverted commas because the day shift midwife kept telling me ‘you’re not even in labour yet’ after clawing with what felt like two inch nails through my adamantly shut cervix. At about eight hours in, my pains intensified in frequency and duration so I received an exam every thirty minutes. At one stage she slapped off the glove and snarled at me that I wasn’t even dilated yet.

Issue No7: When women are not respected and nurtured in any stage of their labour they shut down.

In my case, my cervix never opened. Sure why would it? I never felt safe, emotionally or mentally- not even physically, with this woman. I remember the exact moment I had a panic attack- it was just before shift change. I had endured this midwife for twelve hours. She was rolling on her glove and things went black.

I woke up moments later and I was freaking out and screaming whilst being pinned to the bed by four midwives and my husband was shouting my name, trying to get my attention.

At that moment, Fiona ran in to the cubicle. I calmed down once I heard her voice.Everyone else left the cubicle and Fiona asked me, asked me, if she could give me an exam to see how far dilated I was. I didn’t feel a thing.

Issue No8: Psychological and emotional care seems to be on the bottom of the list in the maternity care plan.
I still was not dilated but Fiona decided it was time to send me to the labour ward and get me on the drip.

My new midwife was just lovely. She was young, sweet and soft. I warmed to her immediately but was still full of terror and violation.The sister spent a lot of time with us too. I guess I had become a problem labour. They organised an epi for me straight away and put me on the oxytocin. My babies heart rate immediately dropped in half. She couldn’t take it.

They took me off the oxytocin. They wanted to get a sample from my babies head to measure her level of stress. The gave me the gas. It wasn’t plugged in. I told the midwife that nothing was happening and she refused to believe me.

Issue No9: Pregnant women often are rarely seen as equals in regards to pain management in the labour ward

I had another freak out when the obstetrician tried to stick a foot long needle into my vagina to take a sample from my babies head. He had to pull out and was getting frustrated with me. The sister told me that if I didn’t let him do this I could end up with a c-section. I told her at this stage I would rather go through the surgery than keep my baby in this state of stress. The obs told me that the procedure wouldn’t cause the baby any stress. I told him I meant the emotional state that I was in.

He looked at me quizzically.

Repeat issue No8: Psychological and emotional care seems to be on the bottom of the list in the maternity care plan.

The sister told me that I may never be able to have a natural birth again if I have a c-section. I told her I only plan on having one child. She laughed at me and told me that I would want another. The sister and the obs went across the room to chat and my midwife, or maybe an angel, whispered into my ear. She told me that they were going to come back and try to push my into a natural birth. She said ‘this is your decision’, emphasis on your.

This was the first moment, in my entire pregnancy that I realised that I had a choice and a say over my own labour and birth.

Issue No10: Pregnant women are not empowered with the knowledge that every single decision is theirs.

I had a c-section fifteen hours after they burst my water sac. I must say, my anesthetist was like another angel. He chatted to me and my husband genuinely during my operation. He was so kind, caring and brotherly.When my baby was born I listened out for the cry but I couldn’t hear anything. Then, out of no where, she let out this loud announcing cry- ‘I am here!’

Afterward I was brought up to the recovery room while my husband took our daughter and had skin on skin contact. I lay there for an hour looking at my feet whispering, ‘move your big toe’, like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Eventually I managed to convince the midwife that I could move my legs. She had watched me for the last hour and kindly brought me down. I was lifted into my bed and finally reunited with my baby. She attached to me straight away.

The next morning I woke up with a little alien face opening her eyes and peering over at me. I could feel her seeking me out. I lifted her, still numb inside but knowing that I loved her immediately, even if I couldn’t feel it.

Over the next day or two I would see the psychiatric nurse, who I will convince that I am perfectly fine. Even though I was lying to myself. I had flash backs and nightmares of my experience for months after. It took me a year to even consider making a complaint about the day-shift midwife but by then I felt it was too late. It took me two years to write this and even now when I talk about it I break down.

I am still not healed.

I want a home birth for my next one but I can’t because I had a c-section.

I am dreading another hospital experience but at least this time around at the very least I will know that I actually have a voice. That is the trouble with first-time mothers- thay don’t know that they actually have choices and as far as I can see the IMS has no interest in changing. It seems to me that they are holding pieces of a broken system together and if they were to take one hand away to make changes the current system will fall apart.

Change is greatly needed, though, even if that means tearing the whole system apart and re-piecing it back together.

Thanks so much to Laura for allowing us to share her story with you. 

Maternity News

‘Cradle snatchers’ cause menopause, says biologist

Prof Rama Singh warns that Michael Douglas and Rod Stewart wannabes have stacked the Darwinian deck of cards against older women remaining fertile

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. Prof Rama Singh argues that the male preference for young mates has led to the menopause. Photograph: Jim Spellman/WireImage

Press Association

Men who behave like Michael Douglas, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are to blame for women ending their reproductive life early, according to a new theory. All three celebrities are famous for wooing much younger partners. And it is the male preference for young mates that has led to the menopause, researchers have said.

Through the forces of natural selection, men have unwittingly stacked the Darwinian deck of cards against older women remaining fertile, it is claimed.

“In a sense it is like ageing, but it is different because it is an all-or-nothing process that has been accelerated because of preferential mating,” evolutionary biologist Professor Rama Singh, from McMaster University in Canada, said.

The average woman hits the menopause at 51, but for some the “change” can come in their 40s. But quite why human women become infertile in middle age is an unsolved mystery. Only two other species, pilot and killer whales, are known to experience a menopause in a similar way to humans. Female chimpanzees, our closest animal cousins, only stop being fertile near the end of their lives, typically around the age of 45.

The new theory turns the conventional view that the menopause prevents older women from continuing to reproduce on its head. Instead, it holds that lack of reproduction has given rise to the menopause.

Another idea called the “grandmother theory” suggests that women evolved to become infertile after a certain age to free them up to assist with rearing grandchildren. This in turn improves the survival of kin, and so is an example of positive selection.

Evolutionary biologist Professor Rama Singh, whose theory is published in the online journal Public Library of Science Computational Biology, argues that this makes no evolutionary sense. “How do you evolve infertility?” he said. “It is contrary to the whole notion of natural selection.

Natural selection selects for fertility, for reproduction – not for stopping it. This theory says if women were reproducing all along, and there were no preference against older women, women would be reproducing, like men are, for their whole lives.”

He said argues that the menopause did not emerge to benefit the species, but simply because fertility served no purpose beyond a certain age. Natural selection, which favours the survival of the fittest, protected fertility in women while they were most likely to reproduce.

Inherited genetic mutations that cause infertility at younger ages are weeded out, because young women carrying them cannot have babies. But the same reproductive check is not there to quell the accumulation of mutations interfering with fertility in middle age. Over many generations this has led to the menopause, the theory states.

If women had a history of choosing younger “toy boy” mates, the situation would be reversed, with men losing their fertility in their 50s, Dr Singh argues.

He and two colleagues developed computer simulations showing natural selection at work to back their theory.

But British expert Dr Maxwell Burton-Chellew, an evolutionary biologist from Oxford University, strongly rejects the hypothesis. He pointed to the evolution of sterile worker bees – which are all female – as proof that natural selection can favour infertility.

“Having offspring is not the only way to pass on your genes – you can also pass them on by helping your relatives, which is what good grandmothers do,” Dr Burton-Chellew said. “The authors argue that the menopause exists in humans because males have a strong preference for younger females.

“However, this is probably the wrong way round – the human male preference for younger females is likely to be because older females are less fertile. The authors’ paper offers no reason for why males prefer younger females – they just take it as a given, which is surprising.”


Maternity News

New Down’s Syndrome blood test to go on trial


A new non-invasive blood test for Down’s Syndrome in unborn babies will be offered for free at two hospitals next month following a successful trial on patients.

Blood test for Down's offered at two hospitals

Under the current testing system all foetuses are screened at the 12-week ultrasound scan  Photo: Alamy
Prenatal patients at King’s College Hospital and Medway Maritime hospital in Chatham, Kent, are to be offered the screening test which researchers claim can identify with 99 per cent certainty whether their unborn child will have Down’s.

Experts conducting the ongoing study say that, if offered right across the NHS, the method could spare tens of thousands of women the need for more invasive testing, and prevent almost 300 miscarriages each year that are caused by the process, known as CVS.

At £400 per test, it is currently too expensive to adopt across the country but researchers hope the pilot will persuade pharmaceutical bosses to drop the cost to a price the health service can afford.

Under the current testing system used by the NHS, all foetuses are screened at the 12-week ultrasound scan to determine whether they have a high or low risk of the genetic disorder, which is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.

About 30,000 of the 600,000 women who give birth every year are deemed at high risk of having a baby with Down’s as a result, and are offered an invasive second test which comes with a one in 100 chance of causing a miscarriage.

Scientists at King’s College London claim their new blood test could reduce the number of women referred for the second test to 1,500 per year if it were offered routinely in Britain.

In a study of 1,005 pregnant women, published in the Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, blood samples were taken at 10 weeks and sent to a laboratory in America where foetal DNA circulating in the mother’s blood was analysed and returned within two weeks.

Researchers say this timeframe would allow women identified as high risk to be offered the second test when they attend their 12-week ultrasound scan.

An earlier study had established the effectiveness of the test on stored blood samples, but the new research established that it could work as part of women’s routine treatment.

Prof Kypros Nicolaides, who led the study, said: “With the current method you get any number: one in two [chance of the baby having Down’s], one in ten, fifty, or five hundred.

“With the new test you get a result which is either more than 99 per cent chance, or a less than one in ten thousand chance. It is a very clear distinction between the two.”

He added that the new technique, if offered across the UK, would have the potential to increase the diagnosis rate from 1,000 cases to almost all of the 1,200 which occur every year.

The test is being offered for free to women who agree to be part of the ongoing trial, but charities warned that it could be many years before it becomes more widely available because no laboratory in the UK is capable of carrying out the analysis.

Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder which affects mental and physical development, affects more than 60,000 in the UK.

Carol Boys, Chief Executive of the Down’s Syndrome Association, said: “The test results from Prof. Nicolaides and his team at King’s College show that the use of an early non-invasive blood test that could be used throughout the national screening programme is still a fair way off.

“The test is becoming more accurate. There are still small but significant anomalies that make it difficult to see how this could replace the current screening process.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “This research is an interesting development and an important step forward in to finding out more about Down’s Syndrome. The Department will watch the further progress of this test closely.”

Maternity News

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes


By Helena LeeBBC News

Baby asleep in one of the maternity boxes

For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.

It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.

Mother and daughters look at a pack from 1947A 1947 maternity pack

Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.

The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.

“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state.

In the 1930s Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high – 65 out of 1,000 babies died. But the figures improved rapidly in the decades that followed.

Mika Gissler, a professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, gives several reasons for this – the maternity box and pre-natal care for all women in the 1940s, followed in the 60s by a national health insurance system and the central hospital network.

Contents of the box

Contents of the 2013 pack
  • Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colours and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, wash cloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy
  • Bra pads, condoms

At 75 years old, the box is now an established part of the Finnish rite of passage towards motherhood, uniting generations of women.

Reija Klemetti, a 49-year-old from Helsinki, remembers going to the post office to collect a box for one of her six children.

Box anticipation

Mark Bosworth and baby Annika
Mark BosworthFinland

My partner Milla and I were living in London when we had our first child, Jasper, so we weren’t eligible for a free box. But Milla’s parents didn’t want us to miss out, so they bought one and put it in the post.

We couldn’t wait to get the lid off. There were all the clothes you would expect, with the addition of a snowsuit for Finland’s icy winters. And then the box itself. I had never considered putting my baby to sleep in a cardboard box, but if it’s good enough for the majority of Finns, then why not? Jasper slept in it – as you might expect – like a baby.

We now live in Helsinki and have just had our second child, Annika. She did get a free box from the Finnish state. This felt to me like evidence that someone cared, someone wanted our baby to have a good start in life. And now when I visit friends with young children it’s nice to see we share some common things. It strengthens that feeling that we are all in this together.

“It was lovely and exciting to get it and somehow the first promise to the baby,” she says. “My mum, friends and relatives were all eager to see what kind of things were inside and what colours they’d chosen for that year.”

Her mother-in-law, aged 78, relied heavily on the box when she had the first of her four children in the 60s. At that point she had little idea what she would need, but it was all provided.

More recently, Klemetti’s daughter Solja, aged 23, shared the sense of excitement that her mother had once experienced, when she took possession of the “first substantial thing” prior to the baby itself. She now has two young children.

“It’s easy to know what year babies were born in, because the clothing in the box changes a little every year. It’s nice to compare and think, ‘Ah that kid was born in the same year as mine’,” says Titta Vayrynen, a 35-year-old mother with two young boys.

For some families, the contents of the box would be unaffordable if they were not free of charge, though for Vayrynen, it was more a question of saving time than money.

She was working long hours when pregnant with her first child, and was glad to be spared the effort of comparing prices and going out shopping.

“There was a recent report saying that Finnish mums are the happiest in the world, and the box was one thing that came to my mind. We are very well taken care of, even now when some public services have been cut down a little,” she says.

When she had her second boy, Ilmari, Vayrynen opted for the cash grant instead of the box and just re-used the clothes worn by her first, Aarni.

A boy can pass on clothes to a girl too, and vice versa, because the colours are deliberately gender-neutral.

Infant mortality in Finland

The contents of the box have changed a good deal over the years, reflecting changing times.

During the 30s and 40s, it contained fabric because mothers were accustomed to making the baby’s clothes.

Pram in snow

Would you put your baby or toddler outside in the freezing cold for their lunchtime nap? Most Nordic parents wouldn’t give it a second thought. For them it’s part of their daily routine.

“I think it’s good for them to be in the fresh air as soon as possible,” says Lisa Mardon, a mother-of-three from Stockholm, who works for a food distribution company.

“Especially in the winter when there’s lots of diseases going around… the kids seem healthier.”

But during World War II, flannel and plain-weave cotton were needed by the Defence Ministry, so some of the material was replaced by paper bed sheets and swaddling cloth.

The 50s saw an increase in the number of ready-made clothes, and in the 60s and 70s these began to be made from new stretchy fabrics.

In 1968 a sleeping bag appeared, and the following year disposable nappies featured for the first time.

Not for long. At the turn of the century, the cloth nappies were back in and the disposable variety were out, having fallen out of favour on environmental grounds.

Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along.

“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop,” says Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki. “Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them.”

At a certain point, baby bottles and dummies were removed to promote breastfeeding.

“One of the main goals of the whole system was to get women to breastfeed more,” Pulma says. And, he adds, “It’s happened.”

He also thinks including a picture book has had a positive effect, encouraging children to handle books, and, one day, to read.

And in addition to all this, Pulma says, the box is a symbol. A symbol of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.

The story of the maternity pack

Pack from 1953
  • 1938: Finnish Maternity Grants Act introduced – two-thirds of women giving birth that year eligible for cash grant, maternity pack or mixture of the two
  • Pack could be used as a cot as poorest homes didn’t always have a clean place for baby to sleep
  • 1940s: Despite wartime shortages, scheme continued as many Finns lost homes in bombings and evacuations
  • 1942-6: Paper replaced fabric for items such as swaddling wraps and mother’s bedsheet
  • 1949: Income testing removed, pack offered to all mothers in Finland – if they had prenatal health checks (1953 pack pictured above)
  • 1957: Fabrics and sewing materials completely replaced with ready-made garments
  • 1969: Disposable nappies added to the pack
  • 1970s: With more women in work, easy-to-wash stretch cotton and colourful patterns replace white non-stretch garments
  • 2006: Cloth nappies reintroduced, bottle left out to encourage breastfeeding

Additional reporting by Mark Bosworth.