Midwives in Northern Ireland are to join other healthcare workers in the fight for better pay as they prepare to strike on Monday.

The head of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in Northern Ireland has said members are being forced to take industrial action as they’re finding it increasingly difficult to pay basic bills with their NHS wages.

“I’ve never seen morale this low,” says Karen Murray, the RCM’s Northern Ireland Director.

“This is absolutely not where midwives want to be, this isn’t in our DNA, we’re not a particularly militant group of individuals, but midwives have been pushed into a corner.”

It’s difficult to argue with her comments given the current situation.

Midwives in Northern Ireland have not yet received the 4% pay rise awarded to their counterparts in other parts of the UK.

The money is finally to be included in April’s pay packets – one year later than should have happened.

At the same time, the impasse at Stormont is complicating negotiations between unions and officials over the pay row.

In the absence of an Executive, the RCM is calling for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State, however, the Northern Ireland Office appears unwilling to move on the issue, insisting the matter must be resolved by local politicians.

The clock is ticking.

However, in the absence of intervention, up to 1,200 midwives and maternity support workers who are RCM members will strike between 8am and 12noon on Monday.

They will also take industrial action short of strike by claiming payment for any overtime worked in the week following the strike action.

So, what does this mean for pregnant women and new mums?

As is usual practice before any strike by healthcare workers, talks are ongoing between the RCM and health trusts ahead of Monday to try and agree derogations.

Essentially, this involves the trusts and RCM coming to an agreement on the number of staff that are required to enable certain services to run safely.

The finer details have yet to be hammered out, but the RCM has given an assurance that patient safety will remain paramount to striking members.

Can I attend hospital if I go into labour on Monday?

Absolutely. Delivery suites and labour wards will remain open as normal and the RCM has said they will ensure adequate numbers of midwives and maternity support workers will be working through the strike to care for all women in labour.

What happens if I am worried about my baby during the strike?

Foetal maternal assessment units will remain open as normal to deal with any possible emergencies. Anyone with concerns about their pregnancy during strike action, such as reduced foetal movement or bleeding, should contact their local hospital as normal for advice.

I am booked for induction on Monday. Will it go ahead?

Maternity wards will be operating with bank holiday cover during the strike so planned services will be affected.

Where it is deemed necessary for the well-being of the mum or baby for an induction to go ahead as planned on Monday, this will happen.

Trusts are in the process of informing women whose inductions cannot go ahead as planned on Monday to provide an alternative date.

I have opted for a home birth. What happens if I go into labour on Monday?

While some trusts have said there are no home births booked on Monday, it’s impossible to predict with certainty when a baby will decide to make an appearance.

However, according to the RCM, the on-call rota for home births will operate as normal during the strike to enable women to deliver their baby at home if this is their choice.

I am due to have a Caesarean section on Monday. Will that happen now?

Decisions are being made as to whether Caesarean sections planned for Monday must go ahead to ensure the safety of mum and baby.

As with planned inductions, alternative dates will be offered if required and trusts are again the process of informing patients of any changes to appointments.

Will my antenatal appointment go ahead as planned?

Routine antenatal appointments scheduled for Monday morning will not go ahead.

However, some antenatal appointments where women require close monitoring may take place.

The trusts are in the process of informing affected patients.

If I have my baby over the weekend, will I receive a visit from a midwife on the Monday?

Women who are discharged on Sunday should receive a visit from a midwife on Monday, although this may be later in the day.

The RCM has said Day Five visits, where the heel prick test is carried out, will also go ahead as planned.

Other postnatal midwife visits may not take place on Monday but anyone with concerns can contact their local maternity unit or GP surgery for advice.

Is there any possibility I may not be able to deliver at the hospital of my choice due to the strike action?

The RCM has said the strike will not lead to any women having to be transferred to other hospitals to deliver their baby.

Some transfers may be necessary if there are no neonatal cots available for a baby who may require additional support after birth, such as premature babies.

The RCM has said members will be allowed to come off the picket line during the strike to respond to emergencies in the event services become overwhelmed.