In 2010, WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services) developed the pioneering Maternity Mates™ project to recruit, train and match-up volunteer Maternity Mates with pregnant women in need of extra support in Tower Hamlets. In April 2015, we extended our programme into neighbouring Newham and launched in Waltham Forest in January 2017. Maternity Mates is currently planning to expand into other London boroughs, with the aim of becoming a nationwide service.
Maternity Mates is currently open to pregnant women living in Newham, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest who do not have a suitable support network, or have specific needs or healthcare issues. Please click here to read more about the women we support, and to make a referral to the service.
"Stories of Encounters" Booklet
Please click here to download a copy of our compilation of stories featuring the experiences of volunteer Maternity Mates and the women supported by them. These stories provide a powerful insight into the Maternity Mates programme and the important work we do to empower disadvantaged pregnant women.
The role of the Maternity Mate
A Maternity Mate is a female volunteer trained by WHFS to provide practical and emotional support to women during pregnancy, childbirth and the early weeks of motherhood. Support can start any time from the 5th month of pregnancy, through to birth and up to either 6 or 12 weeks after the baby is born (6 weeks in Tower Hamlets and 12 weeks in Newham). We are currently working with our funders (the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups for each borough) to extend the time Maternity Mates can offer support after the baby is born.
Maternity Mates are recruited from the communities we serve, and where possible, will speak the same language as the mother-to-be. Maternity Mates support the mum to help her understand the issues and decisions that affect her care, and that of her baby.
The Maternity Mates project concentrates on positive outcomes in three key areas:
- For pregnant women - Birth experience and preparing women to care for their baby (both emotionally and practically);
- For Maternity Mates - Employment and education prospects for volunteers;
- For health services - Supporting health professionals to help the mother to make informed decisions about her care, and that of her baby.
Accredited training programme
WHFS provides accredited training to Level 3 with the London Open College Network (OCN), which also counts as 9 points towards the Access to Midwifery course, Doula Skills & Breastfeeding Support Level 3. We have developed our training programme over several years, specifically adapting it to meet the needs of BME (black minority ethnic) clients. We recruit and train Maternity Mates to a set timetable, with training completed in approximately 8 weeks; the course is held several times per year, but more often as we expand the programme. Please see the Events page for further details on recruitment open days.
Training is conducted by WHFS staff (including our in-house midwife), a senior midwife & lecturer from City University and other specialist organisations. All volunteers must successfully complete the training course and DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) checks before they are allowed to support women. Please click here for further details on the training programme and how to become a Maternity Mate.
What Maternity Mates provide
The length of time each Maternity Mate spends with a mum will vary, but is usually around 2 to 3 hours per week. This includes attending appointments and discussing the mum's options around the birth, in addition to supporting the mum during the birth in hospital. Our Maternity Mates can:
- Provide emotional and practical support before, during and after the baby is born;
- Introduce and encourage women to attend antenatal classes;
- Explain the choice of birthing options available;
- Accompany women on a tour of a hospital or community birthing centre;
- Attend hospital, GP, antenatal appointments and classes with the mother;
- Provide information and support on birth planning, including pain relief options;
- Provide support during the birth, contributing to a more positive experience of childbirth;
- Offer information and support around breastfeeding;
- Offer advice and referrals to further support;
- Give introductions to the local children's centre and mother & baby groups.
Maternity Mates will always do their best to help mums, and where they cannot help directly, they will refer the mum to someone who can help or offer further advice. We have found the trust that is built between mum and the Maternity Mate can make her presence during these procedures reassuring. This is especially true for women who have little or no English, as the support of their Maternity Mate can make them feel more comfortable and less intimidated by the clinical surroundings.
Maternity Mates CANNOT:
- Offer any clinical advice or perform any medical tasks;
- Offer domestic cleaning, shopping or cooking;
- Offer babysitting services;
- Drive mums to and from appointments, for insurance reasons.
To read more about Maternity Mates, please click on the links opposite.
Maternity Mates support mums during the birth and currently we work exclusively with the Royal London Hospital, Newham Hospital, Whipps Cross Hospital, Barking Birth Centre and the Barkantine Birth Centre. The Which? Birth Choice website features these four centres and include links to the Maternity Mates service from their website. Please click on the links below for information on these birthing centres - including details on facilities and ward statistics:
- Royal London Hospital
- Newham Hospital
- Whipps Cross Hospital
- Barking Birth Centre
- Barkantine Birth Centre
To make a referral
If you would like to refer a woman to Maternity Mates, please click on this link to the Make a Referral
Please click here for contact details for the Maternity Mates team.
Maternity Mates™ is the registered trademark of WHFS (Women's Health & Family Services)