Improving the lives of mothers and babies facing inequalities and disadvantage
Birth Companions is a women’s charity dedicated to tackling inequalities and disadvantage during pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. We were founded in 1996 to support pregnant women and new mothers in Holloway Prison. Since then we’ve become experts in meeting the needs of women living in the most challenging situations in prison and in the community.
The women we support face many difficulties which can often make the birth of their baby a time of anxiety, stress and hardship. These can include being in contact with the criminal justice system, involvement with children's social care, immigration issues, homelessness, poverty, mental ill-health and a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse. Time and again our work has shown that with the right support cycles of disadvantage can be broken, and the futures of mothers and their babies improved.
We are led by and for women. We provide practical and emotional support through services in prisons and the community. Many of those supported go on to join our Lived Experience Team; a group of over 50 women who are committed to drawing on their experiences in our research and policy work. Together, we are achieving real change in the way women and their babies are cared for across the UK and beyond.
25 years of influence in the criminal justice system
Birth Companions has worked relentlessly for the last 25 years to improve the care of pregnant women and mothers of infants in the criminal justice system. We have been honoured to do this with so many women with lived experience of the system, and incredibly proud of the real change our efforts have driven. There is still so much more to be done to reduce inequalities in the criminal justice system as well as the maternity, social services and immigration systems. But it's always useful to reflect on what we have already achieved.
An award-winning charity
In 2011 we were awarded the Una Padel Award by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, for our work with pregnant women and new mothers.
In 2018 we were named the British Journal of Midwifery’s Charity of the year in recognition of our invaluable contribution to the lives of parents and babies.
In 2020 we were announced runner-up in the Outstanding National Charity Award category of the Criminal Justice Alliance Awards:
“Pregnant women, new mothers and their babies are one of the most important groups in prison. The efforts of Birth Companions has ensured improved standards, increased investment and humanitarian intervention during the Coronavirus pandemic. It is a small charity with a big impact".
In 2023 we were awarded a prestigious GSK IMPACT Award, delivered in partnership with leading health and care charity The King’s Fund, for our work to improve the health and wellbeing of women who experience disadvantage and inequality during pregnancy and early motherhood:
“Birth Companions does exemplary work in prisons and the community to support some of the most vulnerable pregnant women in our society, helping them to give their babies the best possible start in life. Despite its small size, the charity has achieved incredible impact working at the challenging intersection of maternity services with criminal justice, the NHS, social services and the immigration system.”