Cascais, Portugal, 17-19th February 2017
Twenty two delegates from eleven European countries-members of ENCA met for three days for the annual ENCA conference. This year Portugal and the new member of ENCA “Associacao Gravidez e Parto” was the host of the conference. We thank them very warmly for the outstanding organization!
The first and third days of the conference were focused on internal ENCA affairs, i.e. management of finances, the ENCA webpage and communication between members, the 2018 International Week for Respecting Childbirth, and highlights from our country reports which were circulated to all members before the conference.
The second day of the conference was open to the local birth activists’ community. Many people turned up, including mothers with babies, pregnant women, couples, nurses, an obstetrician, midwives. There were two presentations by international speakers: one by Cecily Begley and the Optibirth project from Ireland, an international project run by the Trinity College Dublin Nursing and Midwifery School, led by Cecily and carried out in Germany, Italy and Ireland (for more information please visit: http://www.optibirth.eu/optibirth/), aiming for women-centered maternity care across Europe and especially focusing on the increase of VBACs, and one by Beverley Lawrence Beech on the history of birth activism in the UK in the past 50 years.
There were also two presentations in Portugese by local activists, one by Mario Santes on women’s choice for the place of birth in European countries, and one by Dr. Graca Gonvalces-Ammamentos on Better Beginnings; in the end a workshop took place, facilitated by a team of four Portugese activists (a mother, a doctor, a nurse and a doula) on the birth plan. This day conference was very well received by the local community and a lot of ideas were exchanged and networking took place between like-minded people, as well as between people from different disciplines.
ENCA decided to make changes in the current website management, create a Facebook page, and change the electronic communication between members from a yahoo list to a google list.
Part of ENCA money was allocated to go towards the website work, and also to finance next year’s conference in Bosnia & Herzegovina which also coincides with ENCA’s 25th anniversary. ENCA is always open to applications for financial support from members who wish to attend conferences and do not have adequate resources.
ENCA delegates keep in touch with other international and local networks and organizations, thus keeping us all connected. Examples are connections with the European Doula Network, Human Rights in Childbirth network, German association ISCPM, Observatories for Obstetric Violence, etc.
The topic for the International Week for Respecting Childbirth IWRC for 2018 was decided to be: “Less interference. More care.” and will take place 14th – 21st May. Promotion materials will be uploaded on the ENCA website so that we can all see and circulate actions internationally and it will be available from January 2018.
The ENCA 2018 will be hosted in Sanski Most, Bosnia & Herzegovina in 27-29 April.
From the country reports shared by the delegates some common issues arose:
- Many countries have difficulties in collaborating with organizations and networks with similar goals. Often the activists argue with each other instead of finding common grounds and joining forces. In our discussion it became clear that being inclusive can bring positive results to our activities. If the gaps cannot be bridged, it is best to not make confrontations but to continue with our work and hope that they will join us.
- Some countries face the difficulty of more and more centralized maternity care in larger units, thus resulting in women losing personalized care which then can result in adverse outcomes in labour and postpartum period. We talked about not giving up in promoting midwifery care by well trained and well supported professionals for all women.
- Postnatal support is another common issue in some countries. Postnatal mental/emotional challenges is not recognized and dealt with in many maternity systems, resulting in maternal disorders and deaths (suicides).
- Collection of accurate data is a common challenge in many countries. There are several campaigns for the collection of data by hospitals and by parents and their comparison to determine their accuracy.
- Another common issue is the practice of independent midwives (for homebirth or free standing birth centers) which is inhibited or prohibited by laws, insurance policies, etc.