Commercialisation, post conception, and via your GP

Excellent article in the Guardian about the National Childbirth Trust. The NCT have found that some hospitals are paying 5K to allow access to companies to come on to antenatal wards to sell their wares; photographs of babies, free samples of nappies, etc.

I have complained about this before, in my own antenatal care. I was aghast that these commercial operations were allowed onto wards at all; you can’t keep wards confidential but it isn’t fair to allow  salespeople to parade in and out when women are having babies, learning to feed, recovering. I was told that patients generally wanted this and that I was being oversensitive. I wish now I’d made more of a fuss.

In fact I think the problem is deeper and more insidious. The Royal College of GPs is ‘associated’ with Emma’s Diary, the contents of which I find patronising and generally odious. It is sent to GP surgeries and given to women when they tell their doctor they are pregnant. It follows, diary-style, a pregnancy, and it is choc-full of adverts for everything you don’t really need; last time I looked there was nothing about cotton nappies, for example, and everything about the most expensive pushchairs, prams, and etc. This kind of pressure isn’t fair.

I am an RCGP member and embarrassed by Emma’s Diary. I think that useful information about pregnancy is best done without adverts. I have complained about it twice; my first complaint seemed to get lost, and in my second complaint, I was told that no one much apart from me was bothered.

But I don’t think I’m alone. I think that there must be other women out there who would prefer straightforward, evidence based information about pregnancy and childbirth without adverts.

Any takers?

PS This closes it; Emma’s Diary online has a celebrity baby page. I am overwhelmed with horror

16 Responses to “Commercialisation, post conception, and via your GP”

  1. Kris McKeown August 22, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    Absolutely. I’m pregnant with my second baby and took the Bounty pack out of curiosity and was pretty stunned at how useless it was. Just seemed to be a big application form to send off your details to get even more adverts pushed through your letter box.

    Managed to read a page of Emma’s Diary before getting rid.

  2. Nik Knight August 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Yes, I would. I wasn’t impressed with Emma’s Diary, the Bounty pack or all the other ‘parenting clubs’ pushed at me from all angles during and after my first pregnancy. All just huge marketing ploys, none of which gave me anything useful or of interest to me.

    This time round, it all went straight in the recycling as soon as I got home from my booking-in appointment.

  3. phoebe pallotti August 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Absolutely, I’m a midwife and a mother and I’ve always been disgusted with the ‘captive’ marketing to women – it’s such a vulnerable time! I do a bit of local ‘subvertising’ and stick breastfeeding stickers over the cow and gate logos on some of our kit, but I hadn’t actually thought to complain to the trust – I will now!

  4. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney August 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    Here’s the feedback page. …..
    Please do write….

  5. GilulaArc August 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Revenue probably pays for vital stuff you’d ordinarily expect the Trusts/PCTs to fund. Our hospital’s covered in ads esp round the sitemaps. Coffee shops, WHSmiths and M&Ss have popped up in foyers everywhere. This is the business of medicine …

  6. Jane Woodley August 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Advertising and information can go hand-in-hand – done properly.

    Acorn Pack is being very well received across Hillingdon.

    It’s also being funded by a mixture of Public Health funding and relevant, ethical advertising – no bottles, no teats, no formula manufacturers.

    Perhaps the ideal would be no advertising (and definitely no patronising!) – evidence-based information, etc – but the fact remains that there isn’t endless public money out there for this sort of thing.

    And, actually, pregnant women do want to find out about slings, nappies, pushchairs, etc, etc – we live in a capitalist society, after all. Let’s do it well, do it kindly, do it ethically – and be open and transparent about how things are funded and what the aims are.

    My aim with Acorn Pack is to give women better information whilst they’re pregnant and signpost them to the support they may need when they’ve had their babies (be it breastfeeding support, help using a sling or meeting other mums in the local area – to name but a few things!).

  7. Jane Woodley August 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    And, to clarify – Acorn Pack doesn’t sell on women’s details to marketing companies, we don’t want to do anything but be kind and useful to women who are having babies.

    More info about why I started it:

    Acorn Pack Antenatal goes out through Children’s Centres in Hillingdon.

  8. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney August 22, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    thankyou Jane
    while I have some sympathies for what you are trying to do, I think you have to make a clear distinction between what is EVIDENCE and therefore something that health professionals can recommend, and what is lifestyle information – that isn’t something that doctors nurses or midwives should be involved in. Part of the problem is that healthcare professionals get involved with things they shouldn’t do – and really, I don’t want adverts for expensive maternity wear, expensive handbags and other accessories, as on your website, to be handed to my patients, sorry. Like it or not, the fact that advertising is connected to an NHS facility lends it authority. I don’t like this, which is why don’t like Emma’s Diary. We may live in a capitalist society but we also live in communities, and our health visitors are sources of local information about groups and activities to meet new parents.

  9. Jane Woodley August 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    I do understand, I really do. I know my motives are good – and Acorn Pack wasn’t, as Bounty was, founded to get weaning food information in front of women who’d just had babies. It was set up to put good information out there, especially around birth and breastfeeding.

    I see so much non evidence being spouted by health professionals – SO much – especially around birth and breastfeeding (my own experience from a GP horrified that I was breastfeeding my 12mo son – “Breastfeed for six months, if you must, but for heavens sake, they BITE!” and a health visitor displaying spectacular ignorance, “In an ideal world, all babies would be on the 50th centile” and a midwife who “doesn’t believe there’s any evidence that breastfeeding is better than formula”. These are not isolated incidents, nor are they the worst I’ve heard by a LONG way).

    The health service isn’t necessarily great at gathering experiences from women and using them to inform service provision. I know women who have been so broken by their birth experiences that they’ve not been able to drive past the hospital they gave birth in without sobbing, who’ve broken down following the birth of grandchildren because of their own birth experiences. And these women don’t complain to the NHS – because they worry they’ll have to use the service in future, or that they won’t be listened to anyway.

    I appreciate we live in communities – I live in a borough I’ve lived in for 33 years, my children go to the same school I went to, I’m a governor there (as was my father before me) – I love my community. So it broke my heart to hear women I knew (from all over the country), over and over and over again, saying, “But why didn’t anybody tell me this before I had my baby?” – and to bring my own children up without knowing anything useful about the local area, or about birth or breastfeeding – having to use forensic research skills to ferret out things about groups and activities, because we don’t all have health visitors that are good – some of them are like damp sock puppets with a mania for centile charts and pureed carrots from four months old.

    Anyway, if the NHS would like to fully fund Acorn Pack, that would be great 🙂 I’ll cheerfully remove all advertising if they will!

  10. Martin Budden August 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    How much are Emma’s Diary paying the Royal College of GPs for their endorsement? I cannot imagine it is very much. In this day and age I’m never really very surprised when a respectable organisation sells out. But when you sell out you should at least ensure you retain a reasonable amount of integrity and that you get a reasonable amount of money. It seems the Royal College of GPs has done neither.

    Back in the sixties Bob Dylan was asked that if he sold out, what kind of commercial organisation he would choose. He replied, with humour, “ladies garments” (see ). In 2004 he an advert for Victoria’s Secret ( ).

    Surely you could round up enough GPs to sign a petition complaining that their college sold out so cheaply and with so little style?

  11. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney August 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    It’s possible to gather anecdotal evidence about whatever you want – I don’t think that’s enough to make a case for taxpayers money to fund your project. The NHS should deal in evidence, and I hate the idea of all the middle class adverts on your website just now being directed at pregnant and new parents. sorry.

  12. Michael Power (@wassabeee) August 24, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    I work for a large acute NHS trust, and was somewhat taken aback when my work computer this morning advertised a “charity evening of clairvoyancy” in aid of a local charity. The event includes stalls with jewellery, candles, crystals, tarot readers, plus “much more live entertainment”.

    Even though the event organisers acknowledge clairvoyancy as entertainment, and 80% of the proceeds (after what expenses?) are going to a very worthy cancer charity, it feels to me that this is exploiting the trust’s staff by covertly pushing their empathy buttons.

  13. Leyla Preston August 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Hi guys,

    This is a very interesting conversation because I gave birth to my son at hospital in December 2010 and suffered from 3 days of back labour and a traumatic birth. On the second day of my postnatal stay at the hospital, my husband and I were greeted by a really nice woman from Bounty and she offered to take a picture of us and the new family member. We were sure that this was just a lovely token free gift from Bounty that the hospital were offering us, but after 5 minutes of about 10 pictures being taken of us (at this point, my husband and I were running on autopilot and posing for shots without really thinking about what was going on), the lady brought out a large folder and started reading off prices and packages. Again we weren’t really listening and felt a little taken aback that this had turned into a sales call. She recommended the full package which cost £50 and, obviously, due to how exhausted we felt after a long labour and birth and, of course, the overwhelming beauty of our new son, we bought the £50 package. After a few days, we had finally registered what had happened and armed with our new pictures, which I must admit I am glad we have now, we were quite shocked at how Bounty had preyed on us and the other new couples in the maternity ward so soon after birth, knowing that we were all at our most vulnerable.
    In regards to Emma’s Diary – when I first found out I was pregnant, I was desperate to find a pregnancy diary that I could follow so I could anticipate what was going to happen to my body and to the baby growing inside me. Inspired by the sheer impersonality of Emma’s Diary and the film, Motherhood with Uma Thurman, I created my own website,, and decided to share my personal journey of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, hoping that it would offer personal guidance without the blatant need to push advertisements and sales into the readers’ faces. So I actually have to thank Emma’s Diary, Bounty and the other factual, detached and impersonal sites, because without them, I wouldn’t have been frustrated enough to create my own website with the objective to help and support other women according to what they NEED!

  14. nursesagainstatos August 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Had a look at Emmas Diary couldn’t stand to look at it for more than a cuppla seconds it gave me morning sickness and I am a guy. Very concerned that not many people are worried about this in the medical profession.

  15. nursesagainstatos August 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    “Very concerned that not many people are worried about this in the medical profession”
    Just to clarify that I am talking about the blurring of boundaries between commerce and obstetrics …and not my morning sickness.

  16. Joseph Masters September 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    I was absolutely shocked on seeing Emma’s Diary for the first time. Not only does all the advertising give the booklet a rather unprofessional feel, but it makes it hard for a woman to actually get to all the important advice.

    That being said, the RCGP probably make a nice bit of money from the booklet which is why it continues to be so full of adverts. Is it acceptable to comprimise the quality of information we are giving to expectant mothers in order to save money? In these difficult economic times, I’m sure the RCGP would argue that it is. I think it is not.