I think this is one of the saddest e-mails I have ever read, though that sadness is because of the response from the Head of Midwifery (HoM).  I wonder how the HoM defines ‘professional care’ and what she thinks it can and cannot encompass?  There is something deeply wrong in our society where professional care, presumably, includes the habit of offering a woman an epidural as soon as she is admitted to a labour ward, but does not include care given by a midwife who sits quietly and attentively in a corner of the room, observing, listening, and engaging on a profoundly emotional and spiritual level.


I have sat and knitted while attending women at a home birth.  It is not something I would do at every birth, and I can’t imagine ever doing it unless I had met the woman several times beforehand.  The practice/art (not sure that either of those words is suitable actually) of knitting is based, I think, on a relationship of trust that has developed over time.  It is a very clear, but calm way of demonstrating that ‘all is well’.


I remember sitting knitting at a friend’s homebirth some years ago.  It is perhaps no coincidence that I was knitting the left hand side of a cardigan (just over the heart region) while my friend laboured, supported by her partner.  I think of my friend, and her daughter, every time I wear the cardigan – it is one of my most precious possessions.


With warm good wishes







Mary Stewart

Senior lecturer in midwifery

Room 3.32, James Clerk Maxwell Building

King's College London, Waterloo campus

57 Waterloo Road

London SE1 8WA


Tel: 0207 848 3699

Mobile: 07872 423085


From: A forum for discussion on midwifery and reproductive health research. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Denis Walsh
Sent: 11 April 2012 09:20
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: knitting during labour


I would like to share the following story with the network and invite comments. I was told the story in an email this week.


It is from a midwife who attends a lot of home birth.


She, together with some colleagues often knit while attending a home birth labour and the Head of Midwifery heard about it. The midwives then received a phone call asking them to attend a meeting with the Head of Midwifery and Human Resources.
At the meeting, the Head of Midwifery said that she had never heard of the practice of knitting during labour and, while she was prepared to look at the information from books and article about the purpose behind it, in her opinion, if they were knitting, they could not be providing professional care. The midwives subsequently received a letter saying that, after consulting with fellow Heads of Midwifery, Local Supervising Authority officers and Professional and Regulatory Bodies, they were to stop the practice of knitting at births. The reason for this was that, in the event of an adverse outcome, the Regulatory body would not support them if it were to come to light that they had been knitting during the labour.

Best wishes,


Dr Denis Walsh

Associate Professor in Midwifery

Academic Division of Midwifery

University of Nottingham

East Block

Queens Medical Centre

Derby Rd
Nottingham NG7 2UH

United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)115 8230987

Mobile: 07905735777

Email: [log in to unmask]



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