Co-author of The Roar Behind the Silence, Dr. Sheena Byrom, OBE from the U.K. spoke from the heart to send home a clear message to a gathering of doctors and laypeople of how kindness, compassion and respect are the need of the hour to tackle the burning issue of deplorable maternity services around the world and especially in India. Dr. Sheena was addressing an elite gathering at the Twelfth Dr. Lourdes C. Fernandez Oration Lecture 2018 on 11th January at the Marriott Hotel, Hyderabad.
The talk was jointly organized by the Fernandez Hospital Educational and Research Foundation and ISOPARB, the Indian Society of Perinatology and Reproductive Biology, Hyderabad. Dr. Evita Fernandez welcomed the gathering with an introduction to the issue of respectful maternity care and how globally, women’s voices are growing louder in demanding the right to dignity, respect and kindness during childbirth. She asked the clinicians to heed this call – to stop-reflect-change practices/attitudes wherever necessary.
Dr. Evita then focused on Women’s Voices in the Indian Scenario. She pointed out a survey where 150,000 women from 24 states were asked what their topmost aspirations were in maternal health care. Two out of every 10 women desired for the maternal services to imbibe dignity and respect. Amplifying the voices of these countless women would positively impact the quality of care. She emphasised the urgent need for Professional Midwifery in India to escalate to the national level.
Dr. Evita invited Mrs Alekya Sigatapu a mother who had birthed at Stork Home - Fernandez Hospital to the dais who reiterated how the compassion and concern shown to her helped to have a positive and satisfying birth experience. Mrs. Alekya had also asked for a novel “Lotus Birth”, which Fernandez complied with, adding to her memorable motherhood experience. She emphasized the importance of “listening to women” and made an earnest plea to the obstetricians to “listen” to the women they serve.
The Oration session began with Dr. Evita’s visual presentation of the life and family of Dr. Lourdes Fernandez and the humble beginnings of Fernandez Hospital. She then introduced Dr. Sheena Byrom as a practising midwife who has worked within the NHS for more than 35 years and is a Board member of the Royal College of Midwives.
Dr. Sheena’s talk about “Kindness, Compassion and Respect in Maternity Care : Turning Silence into a Roar” was an emotion-filled recount of her midwifery experience around the world, backed by impactful visual images, some even involving her own grandchild. In a sombre tone, she recalled her current visits to government maternity hospitals in Hyderabad where the pathetic conditions and the unacceptable harsh treatment of women in labour brought tears to her eyes. She concluded by showing how a little bit of understanding, empathy and concern by caregivers could help women cope dramatically with deploring birthing scenarios.
The talk was followed by an interactive discussion where Dr. Sheena answered queries from different perspectives on the subject. During her stay in India, she will be involved in a series of workshops while trying to build a common agenda for respectful maternal and newborn care for our mothers and babies who we are privileged to serve.