Nurses working in maternity services said they are struggling to cope under the mounting workload as the sector is plunged into crisis.
With an estimated shortage of 2,500 full time midwives across the country, nurses across the UK have said enough is enough.
It comes as a recent survey by The Royal College of Midwives found that 57 per cent of members were considering leaving their role while 84 per cent of members were not happy with the staffing levels.
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At Guildhall Square, midwives and supporters held banners and chanted to protest about their plight on Sunday afternoon.
Hampshire based birth and postnatal doulas Sophy Yildirim and Sally Carter organised the event.
Sally, 44, of Fareham said: ‘We’re pleased with the turnout. There’s been protests up and down the country. The big thing for us now is to get another 9,000 signatures for our petition and then it will be debated in parliament.
‘Midwives need to be protected. The profession is under threat in this country and it’s time for our government to properly fund and respect it.’
She added: ‘They are severely understaffed, overworked, underpaid, working overtime without pay, extremely stressed because of these strains and running on the goodness of their hearts, until they get to a point where that becomes unsustainable.
‘Midwives are barely keeping their heads above the water and families are suffering as a result. The government is exploiting the kind nature inherent within midwives. Midwives' needs must be met now: their voices and those of the families they care for must be listened to, midwives deserve fair wages and emergency funding to keep skilled midwives in the profession.’
Midwives from Queen Alexandra Hospital said they were sworn to silence from speaking on the matter, but one said: ‘We are doing our best but we can’t give any more. There’s not enough of us and there are only so many hours in the day.
‘We need more midwives on the shop floor. You can feel the stress on the wards and it is impacting the care we can give to mums and babies.’
Another midwife said: ‘I love my job but I’m exhausted. We need more support especially after going through traumatic births. Around a third of midwives suffer with PTSD.’
A partner of a midwife said regular 12 hour shifts sometimes followed by additional work made home life more challenging, especially with children. ‘We can get quite tired, it does make things more difficult,’ he said.
Protester Mark Sage said: ‘People need to know the difficult situation midwives are in. If we value the NHS we need to show this by having more funding for midwives. It’s good to see so many people standing up for them.’
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Portsmouth mum-of-one Alanna Burchett, 31, said: ‘Birthing my baby was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and more people deserve to feel that way.
‘Midwifery is an incredibly important traditional role yet midwives are understaffed, burnt out and facing top down pressure. I want to see a properly funded and staffed maternity service where midwives, women and birthing people all feel listened to and respected.’