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The shocking truth about the marketing scandal on Britain’s maternity wards

The shocking truth about the marketing scandal on Britain's maternity wards

WITH her gravely ailing untimely child in an intensive care cot on the different aspect of the hospital, the final thing Aimee Friends anticipated was a go to from a salesman.

“Out of nowhere a woman came up to my hospital bedside, congratulated me and asked if I’d like a photo with my new baby, even though she was nowhere in sight,” remembers Aimee.

 New mums are being bombarded with offers for discounted breast pads and photoshoots after giving birth

New mums are being bombarded with presents for discounted breast pads and photoshoots after giving start

“I would have given anything just to hold my little girl, let alone have a picture taken, but she was in the ICU fighting for her life.”

Shockingly, this scene is all too acquainted on maternity wards throughout the UK, the place simply hours after delivery, new mums are bombarded with provides for discounted grocery deliveries, breast pads, photograph shoots and life insurance coverage.

“As a new parent you’re very vulnerable, which also makes you a marketer’s dream,” explains Anna Williamson, writer of Breaking Mum And Dad: The Insider’s Information To Parenting Nervousness.

“There’s a very advantageous line between offering an answer and profiting from overwhelmed new moms. Many ladies are left feeling bewildered by a plethora of focused marketing, and discover themselves shelling out tons of of kilos for merchandise in the perception that each one these devices and gizmos will make life simpler.

 Aimee's daughter Ottilie was born prematurely, after which she was asked by a salesperson if she would like a photoshoot

Aimee’s daughter Ottilie was born prematurely, after which she was requested by a salesman if she would really like a photoshoot

“It doesn’t help that in our digital era packed with social media and influencers, it’s practically impossible to escape being told what every parent ‘must’ have. But the reality is they barely use the hoard of crap they were told to get.”

For a lot of ladies, their first encounter with maternity marketing is thru Bounty, which manufacturers itself a UK-based parenting membership and claims to “support families in the transition to parenthood… from pregnancy to birth to toddler to pre-school”.

Nevertheless it’s additionally an organization designed to earn cash, and mums are sometimes handed the Bounty being pregnant info folder at their first midwife appointment. The plastic packs embrace a replica of You And Your Being pregnant information, together with samples and vouchers.

What many don’t realise is that Bounty additionally pays cash-strapped NHS Trusts round £2.3million for entry to maternity wards, and receives £90,000 a yr from HMRC to distribute baby profit varieties, that are simply out there on-line.

 Aimee with husband Chris, Freddie and Ottilie

Aimee with husband Chris, Freddie and Ottilie

The onus is on trusts to handle the reps on their wards, and the duty inevitably falls to midwives, who’re already overworked and under-resourced.

“We hear a lot of stories about commercial reps playing on new parents’ emotions to achieve sales or persuade women to hand over their details,” says Justine Roberts, founding father of Mumsnet, an internet group for moms. “Our users feel strongly that women who’ve just given birth are entitled to peace and privacy on the wards and should never have to fend off salespeople.”

When Aimee’s daughter Ottilie was born by C-section at 35 weeks in October final yr, she needed to be rushed to intensive care with respiration difficulties brought on by a build-up of fluid.

“We weren’t sure if she would live. It was very traumatic,” says Aimee. “We have been fraught with fear.

 In 2013 Mumsnet began a campaign to ban Bounty reps from maternity wards

Getty – Contributor

In 2013 Mumsnet started a marketing campaign to ban Bounty reps from maternity wards

I used to be again on the ward, not even clothed as a result of I used to be expressing milk, when a complete stranger walked in and began a gross sales pitch. I felt so numb and emotional, I couldn’t fairly consider what she was doing. I tearfully advised her my daughter was very poorly and to go away me alone.

Though the lady scuttled out, I used to be shocked that she’d gained entry to the room given the circumstances. I do know it’s meant to be as much as the midwives on the ward to regulate the reps, however they’ve sufficient on their plates.”

Sadly it was not the first dangerous expertise Aimee had with Bounty reps. After her first youngster Freddie was born in 2014, she was bought a Bounty photograph shoot simply hours after giving delivery.

“Freddie was a breech birth and delivered by C-section. It was traumatic, but within 12 hours of his birth, before the feeling had fully come back in my legs, there was a Bounty rep in our room trying to sell us a photo shoot,” she recollects.

 Stephanie Davies was just six weeks pregnant when she received her Bounty folder from the antenatal clinic

Stephanie Davies was simply six weeks pregnant when she acquired her Bounty folder from the antenatal clinic

“I still had a catheter in and was bed-bound, the second time she came in she disturbed a breastfeeding session. The third time she interrupted the hearing screening. The fourth time I said OK as I felt like we were being hounded. It cost £150 and my husband had just been made redundant, but I thought it was what every mum did.”

Though Bounty has been working for nearly 60 years, there’s been controversy over its practices for many years.

A 1984 report in the British Medical Journal accused the firm of “exerting pressure on new mothers at a time when they are most vulnerable”, whereas in 2013 Mumsnet started a marketing campaign to ban Bounty reps from wards after a barrage of complaints from members about onerous gross sales techniques.

Over 90,000 individuals signed petitions, and NHS watchdog the Care High quality Fee was given extra energy to research unscrupulous practices.

 Mums are typically handed the Bounty pregnancy information folder at their first midwife appointment

Getty – Contributor

Mums are sometimes handed the Bounty being pregnant info folder at their first midwife appointment

“While Mumsnet users think the principle of signing up for the free samples is fine, they’re near unanimous that the value of the samples don’t justify the intrusion of reps on postnatal wards,” explains Justine.

In response to the ruling, Bounty promised to carefully implement its code of conduct, all the time checking first with the midwifery groups earlier than getting into rooms and by no means interrupting moms who’re sleeping or feeding their infants.

Nevertheless, given the variety of complaints Mumsnet nonetheless will get about it, this clearly isn’t occurring, and a few really feel the drawback is getting worse given the rising variety of platforms obtainable to focus on mums to be, akin to apps and e mail.

Bounty isn’t the solely being pregnant membership monetising motherhood. Emma’s Diary, which has been going for 26 years and was promoted by the Royal School of Basic Practitioners till lately, operates on an identical enterprise mannequin. It presents reductions at outlets for pregnant ladies who enroll by means of social media and chosen shops.

 Apps MyDays and My Pregnancy & Baby Today share data with third-party analytics

Getty Photographs – Getty

Apps MyDays and My Being pregnant & Child In the present day share knowledge with third-party analytics

Worryingly, final yr it was revealed that the organisation had additionally been illegally amassing knowledge and promoting it to the Labour Social gathering, which used it to profile new mums. The firm was fined £140,000 by the Info Commissioner’s Workplace in August.

And today, the marketing begins even earlier than conception. Analysis by Evidon revealed that a few of the prime interval and fertility monitoring apps, together with MyDays and Interval Tracker Lite, along with being pregnant apps like My Being pregnant & Child As we speak, share knowledge with third-party analytics and promoting corporations, which then use the knowledge to focus on advertisements at the consumer.

Then there are rising numbers of personal ultrasound clinics providing memento scans and printing child’s first photograph on key rings and mugs. Window To The Womb, for instance, has over 30 high-street clinics and performs 100,000 scans a yr, together with a 4D choice that may value as much as £135.

Firm director Stephanie Davies, 39, was simply six weeks pregnant when she first skilled maternity marketing after she acquired her Bounty folder from the antenatal clinic at Epsom Hospital.

 Lauren Harris  was approached by a Bounty employee following the birth of her son Joey

Lauren Harris  was approached by a Bounty worker following the start of her son Joey

“It was full of flyers and vouchers for things I didn’t need or want,” she says. “I thought it was inappropriate – before it was even a viable entity, my baby had become a commercial opportunity. Once I’d had a scan to confirm my pregnancy was going well, I tossed it into the car and forgot about it.”

That was till Steph, who lives in Surrey together with her husband, sadly miscarried 4 weeks later.

“I’d gone for a private scan and was devastated to be told no heartbeat could be detected,” she says.

“It was terrible. I used to be conscious that miscarriage is widespread, notably in early being pregnant, so I attempted to be pragmatic. However seeing all the leaflets splayed in the again of the automotive was nonetheless a stark reminder.

 Marketing reps are supposed to ask staff before entering rooms

Alamy

Marketing reps are purported to ask employees earlier than getting into rooms

“While I tried not to let it upset me, I knew that for many women, seeing something like that could really amplify their sadness. It’s clearly wrong to start pregnant women on a sales journey so early on when the statistics show that there is a real possibility that things might not work out.”

Lauren Harris, 40, arrange a petition earlier this yr to foyer authorities to cease business reps concentrating on new moms on wards after she was approached by a Bounty worker following the delivery of her son Joey. It’s already gained over 13,000 signatures and if it hits 100,000 by March 2019, it should be thought-about for debate in Parliament.

“It was a couple of days after I gave birth,” says Lauren, a press officer who lives together with her companion Ben in London. “I used to be recovering in a personal room, nonetheless bleeding and never getting a lot sleep. I keep in mind the door being shut and nonetheless feeling groggy as I sat in my knickers with no prime on when a woman got here in, handed over a Bounty pack and requested for my particulars. I refused twice, so she began on an enormous gross sales pitch about pictures.

“It was solely once I obtained actually irritated and informed her to go away that she lastly left. I used to be so shocked and indignant that I tweeted about how unacceptable it was, and over 600 ladies reacted with their tales.

“Even if their baby has died, women get stuff sent for months just because they are on a system,” she says.

 Women receiving postnatal maternity care 'should never, ever be made to feel pressurised by sales reps in any hospital'

Alamy

Ladies receiving postnatal maternity care ‘ought to by no means, ever be made to really feel pressurised by gross sales reps in any hospital’

“I’ve heard of some who’ve had stillbirths being approached in hospital rooms and the rep walking off without a word of sympathy. It’s beyond shocking that these untrained, unsupervised people can be in the vicinity of women who might be traumatised after giving birth.”

When Lauren requested employees at St George’s Hospital in London about the reps, she was advised they have been presupposed to ask employees earlier than getting into rooms.

In line with a spokesperson from the Royal School of Midwives, ladies receiving postnatal maternity care “ought to by no means, ever be made to really feel pressurised by gross sales reps in any hospital or unit the place they need to be feeling protected and cared for.

 Poster created by Alison Perry which can be printed off and used in hospital

Poster created by Alison Perry which may be printed off and utilized in hospital

Hospitals should take all essential steps to make sure that ladies or their households are usually not in any approach pressured by gross sales reps.”

In the wake of Lauren’s petition, the Division of Well being and Social Care has reiterated its stance that Trusts ought to develop their very own insurance policies and practices.

In the meantime, Bounty has issued a press release saying that the privateness and dignity of latest mums are of paramount significance, and that the organisation “welcomes the idea of developing criteria for hospitals to determine how privacy and dignity are respected”.

Some Trusts are already starting to clamp down, nevertheless. This yr, Ipswich Hospital launched a system permitting ladies to put a card by their beds to point whether or not they need to be approached by Bounty or not. Mid Essex Hospital Providers NHS Belief is introducing an identical system.

 

And on-line parenting communities are taking a stand. Alison Perry, 39, mum to six-week-old twins, even created a poster ladies can print off and use in hospital to discourage salespeople.

“It can feel awkward having to say no to someone who might actually be quite nice and just doing their job, so all mums need to do is put the poster at the end of their bed,” she wrote on her weblog.

As this strain mounts, these calling for change are hoping that motherhood will not be handled as a cynical business alternative.

“Every time there are complaints, the companies come up with the same spiel: ‘Women love us and we treat them with respect,’” says Lauren.

“But there is no one else in hospital being bothered to buy stuff. The NHS obviously needs money, but it shouldn’t be selling access to women at this point in their lives.”

●We repeatedly contacted Bounty for his or her proper to answer, however at the time of publication had acquired no response.

 

Images: Gallery Inventory, Shutterstock

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