All our information is written by our team of healthcare professionals who freely give their time to help us make a difference.
Founder & CEO
In May 2009 my first son, Aidan, was stillborn. My life was completely turned upside down and I had no idea that babies were still dying in the UK, or how common it is. I later learnt that 6,500 babies die in the UK every year and there are precautions mums can take and warning signs to be aware of to help reduce the risk of stillbirth. I joined forces with my local maternity team to set up MAMA Academy to help more babies arrive safely. Receiving positive feedback that you’re making a difference is the most rewarding thing in the world. Midwives have told us that our information prompted mums to get checked sooner than they may otherwise have done and they’d been able to deliver their baby safe and well. Supporting mums through such a special time in their lives is a massive privilege and a passion that will always drive my commitment to saving babies lives.
Heidi was awarded an Inspirational Award in 2014 and was a Tesco Mum of The Year finalist in 2015.
Robin Meltzer is the Director of Fundraising for the national medical research charity, Brain Tumour Research. He has also been a political campaigner and fundraiser, previously serving as Vice Chair of the London Liberal Democrats. He has won several awards for his political work, including the Clean Air in London Award for his efforts to tackle air pollution in the capital.
As a former BBC Worldwide senior television producer for international formats, Robin was responsible for co-productions, including Strictly Come Dancing in over thirty countries worldwide. Robin has an interest in education and has served as a governor at a school for children with profound and multiple special needs.
Robin had been aware of and followed the work of MAMA Academy since its inception, keeping in contact with the Charity's founder, Heidi Eldridge and offering occasional campaigning and fundraising advice. He is delighted to have been appointed a trustee of the charity and is currently serving as Chair of Trustees.
Donna Ockenden has more than 30 years experience of working as a respected and high profile health care leader in the UK and internationally. Her expertise includes the leadership and management of Maternity services and Women and Children’s Divisions. She is the current Senior Midwifery Adviser to the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and was the London Clinical Network Lead for Maternity Bereavement Project MBEM (Maternity Bereavement Experience Measure) until June 2017.
She believes passionately in maternal safety, raising awareness and striving to improve and endorse initiatives which allow babies to arrive more safely. An advocate of best practice, Donna has led numerous projects including a toolkit which provides practical methods for gathering feedback from families whose baby or babies have died during pregnancy or shortly after birth. This was in partnership with SANDS, the NHS England Patient Experience and Insight team and the London Maternity Bereavement Midwives Forum.
Donna is delighted to be a trustee for MAMA Academy and says “wonderful progress is being made by the dedicated team at MAMA Academy by empowering expectant mums with pregnancy information. By helping them feel in control of their pregnancy and confident in reporting any problematic symptoms to their maternity team, this can only be a positive development”.
I have known Heidi and her husband, Steve, for more than a decade and witnessed, first hand, the trauma they went through, and subsequently the way Heidi harnessed their emotions and learnings to create MAMA Academy. So I feel very privileged to join the board of trustees and to work with her, and the growing team, as they move forward to deliver on our strategy.
My wife, Tracie, and I have four grown-up children and one grandson. We have also been foster parents for more than fifteen years, and are now special guardians to two teenage girls who have been part of our extended family for more than ten years.
Through our own family and fostering engagements we have developed a strong understanding of children’s needs and have spent some considerable time looking at early years, pre and post-natal, development and its implications upon child development and later life outcomes.
As a keen cyclist I have raised several thousands of pounds for local charities, including MAMA Academy and Eikon, a local youth charity.
I have more than 38 years experience in international business, primarily in the European telecommunications sector. Where I have established and led teams operating across Europe, Middle East and Africa, delivering significant result in sales, marketing and business development with some of the industries most respected companies, including; Alcatel-Lucent, BT, Cisco and Ciena.
I very much hope to bring these combined skills to the benefit of Heidi and the team.
I am absolutely thrilled to be part of the MAMA Academy team, helping to make a difference for the causes I feel passionately about. Our first son Joe was induced at 37 weeks in September 2010 as I had developed pre-eclampsia. He was tiny – at 5lb 9oz he was only a few grams above the threshold for low birth weight – but thankfully he was otherwise healthy. My experience encouraged me to get involved in fundraising for pregnancy and baby charities and I have since developed a broad knowledge of maternity issues through my day job in the NHS Clinical Networks. I joined MAMA in April 2014 to help out on social media but am extremely proud to now work closely with Heidi as General Manager and a trustee. I am certainly kept busy, especially as we welcomed our second baby Jake in July 2015 following a healthy pregnancy. He was somewhat bigger than his brother, weighing 10lb 2oz!
My name is Claire, I have been a practicing midwife in the NHS for the last 20 years. More recently, I have been working as team leader in a birth centre, however, prior to this as bereavement midwife and labour ward co-ordinator. I have also worked for CEMACE. I believe that we only have one opportunity to get things right for bereaved parents and want to make a difference to parents who find themselves in a sad situation.
Dr Alexander Heazell, MBChB(Hons) PhD MRCOG
Dr Alexander Heazell is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics and Clinical Director of the Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester. After graduation from the University of Birmingham Medical School in 2000, he commenced clinical training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. After completing his PhD thesis on placenta dysfunction in preeclampsia, he has focussed his research interests around stillbirth. His research portfolio includes a profile of basic science, clinical and qualitative research studies with the aim of better understanding and diagnosis of stillbirth leading to improvements in care and saving babies lives. He has published over 75 peer-reviewed papers. He is involved with several workstreams with the Department of Health to prevent stillbirths and improve care. He is the chair of the International Stillbirth Alliance.
Sheena Byrom, OBE
Sheena Byrom is a practising midwife, and worked within the NHS for more than 35 years. Sheena was one of the UK’s first consultant midwives, and successfully helped to lead the development of three birth centres in East Lancashire. Sheena is a member of the Royal College of Midwives Better Births initiative and lectures nationally on midwifery and childbirth related topics. Sheena is the Patron of StudentMidwife.Net and Chair of the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust. Her midwifery memoirs, Catching Babies, is a Sunday Times bestseller, and her absolute passion is promoting normal physiological birth, and a positive childbirth experience for all women. Her latest book, The Roar Behind the Silence: why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care is jointly edited with Soo Downe, and together they hope the book will be used as a resource to promote positive childbirth throughout the world. Sheena was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to midwifery, and she actively lobbies for maternity service improvements through several social media channels. Sheena is currently a Midwife Consultant, and her personal and midwifery related website is www.sheenabyrom.com
Amanda Burleigh, RGM RM
Midwife for 27 years. Campaigner for optimal cord clamping. Co-developer of Basics/Lifestart trolley. School of Health Care Radical.
Medical Innovations Award 2011 (Basics trolley)
Midwife of the Year 2012 Yorkshire Evening Post
Midwife of the Year 2012 (2014) BJM (3rd)
Midwife of the Year (2014) Mama Conference (shortlist)
Midwife of the Year 2015 BJM (shortlist)
Medical Advisor; Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
I qualified in medicine from St Georges hospital. I had decided to pursue a career in Obstetrics and Gynaecology whilst I was at university. I have worked at some of the largest and busiest hospitals in the South of England before coming to St Peters hospital as a consultant.
My areas of special interest in Obstetrics are Intra-partum care, VBAC, Psychiatric illness in pregnancy and in Gynaecology, my practice is in both general gynaecology and Urogynaecology. I have worked at CMACE and regularly teach local GP’s on new developments in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
Kirstie is a senior lecturer in midwifery at King’s College London. She has worked in health services research for fifteen years, and specialises in narrative and qualitative methodologies within health research. Her research interests include place of birth, shared decision making, and perceptions of risk and uncertainty. Kirstie recently completed an NIHR funded knowledge mobilisation fellowship, during which she explored ways of discussing and conveying risks and benefits within maternity care to women, partners, antenatal teachers, clinicians and service commissioners. Her focused field is maternity research, although she has a broad interest in all aspects of public health, health service organisation and comparative health policy and practice. Kirstie has also undertaken narrative review and synthesis, and worked throughout my career on public engagement with research. For more information, and links to Kirstie’s publications, please visit the KCL website.
Medical Advisor; Practicing Midwife
My name is Natalie Linder, I have been a practicing midwife for the last 5 years working predominantly in a consultant-led labour ward. More recently, I have had the opportunity to participate in clinical skills facilitating and education, particularly for junior midwives. I also work as an RCM workplace representative and have recently been awarded “Thompsons Members Champion” award at the Royal College of Midwives Awards 2015. I was recognised for revitalising and engaging the members of our branch and for my hard work and dedication during the pay campaign in 2014/15. I utilise social media to network, share and promote current issues and best practice in maternity care.
I passionately promote the development and practice of the 6 C’s to ensure the families accessing our maternity services receive high quality care by compassionate, driven and competent midwives.
Medical Advisor; Specialist Midwife
I am a RGN, qualified Midwife and have a diploma in Child Psychology, a diploma in Health Service Management, and an Msc in Counselling & Psychotherapy. I am the counsellor at Epsom & St Helier University NHS Hospital’s and specialise in providing 1-1 counselling sessions to the women attending the women’s health services at both these hospital’s. The women are referred to the service for a range of issues eg Depression Anxiety, Bereavement, Trauma experience’s. I am very proactive in training the staff in both Hospital’s and have been consulted to provide training in bereavement support & communication skill’s to student midwives in their final year of training. I was nominated by my colleagues & patients & she received the trusts highest award which was the Chief Executive’s Award for dedication and for providing a unique service. With the support of Sands and my colleagues I was able to provide the Poppy room to the maternity unit which has been dedicated for bereaved couple’s to use. More recently I have been in the local press when a patient highlighted the excellent counselling service the trust provides as a result of receiving support through her pregnancy losses’ & subsequent pregnancy.
Jane Plumb, MBE
Jane and husband Robert founded Group B Strep Support (GBSS) in 1996, following the death of their middle child. GBSS is an independent UK charity with a highly respected and independent medical advisory panel working to improve the prevention of group B Strep infections in babies, support and inform families affected by group B Strep and their health professionals, and support relevant research.
Jane has worked with many UK medical bodies, contributing to group B Strep relating consultations, and as a lay-representative on NICE guidelines/ Quality Standards. She provides patient input for research studies and the National Clinical Research Network Reproductive Health & Childbirth Speciality Group. She works closely with parliamentarians on improving group B Strep prevention policy. Jane was awarded an MBE for services to Child Healthcare in 2012.
Jenny Chambers founded www.icpsupport.org in 1991, after finally being given a diagnosis for the stillbirth of her two daughters (1986 and 1991).
ICP Support was formally registered as a charity in 2012 and, although UK-based, has an international reach. It provides support and research-based information to people affected by the condition and promotes and funds research into the condition. Jenny works in a London research group investigating ICP, is a patient representative on the NIHR Reproductive Health and Childbirth Specialty Group and represents the charity on several other health-based organisations. She is a trained counsellor although had to give up her practice to focus on the research and helping to run ICP Support.
I have one daughter called Jasmine who was born in 2014 and I’m now expecting my second baby. Jasmine was our rainbow baby after two prior miscarriages, so during my pregnancy with her I was nervous and anxious a lot of the time but didn’t really know who to turn to. I found MAMA Academy as I was given one of the Wellbeing Wallets at my booking in appointment for my second pregnancy. After looking at the MAMA Academy website and social media sites I instantly felt reassured to have that wealth of information and support available. I knew at that point that this charity was something special and that I wanted to be involved with making a difference!
I am Melanie Bloomfield, mum to two children, Noah 5 years and Freya 3. They keep me very busy, but I realise how lucky I am to have two healthy, happy children. Growing up I was always told of my older brother Simon, he died as a baby and although I never met him, my siblings and I have always been aware of the huge impact losing a child has on all the family.
I heard of MAMA Academy by chance and ran the Brighton marathon to fundraise for them in 2016.
I am thrilled to now be able to help in an administrative capacity and make a difference in a positive way.
Timing was on my side when I heard Heidi talking about her cause on the radio about a year after the tragic and unnecessary loss of our baby boy at 42 weeks. I decided to contact her to see if I could help, allowing me to channel all my negative energies into something that was positive. Mango’s loss could have been avoided if those taking care of us were more aware of the problems during childbirth. MAMA Academy does just this. I couldn’t think of a better cause and a more dedicated team to support. I am so fortunate to be able to contribute the small amount that I do between work, and my most favourite distraction Una, now 2 years old.
Social Media Designer
Joining the MAMA team I have had the chance to work towards something I feel passionately about. I spent my later years in education studying most aspects of pregnancy/childhood/families and wanted to be able to use that knowledge to help people. If I am not spending time with my family, you can usually find me hiding behind the computer and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work with the lovely team at MAMA to help create the info graphics that are shared on social media.
I’m a stay at home mother of two pre-school aged children, which keeps me very busy and very happy. I feel very blessed that both of my pregnancies passed without complication. However, part way through my first pregnancy a good friend lost her son at full term and since that time I have been conscious of how vulnerable a time pregnancy and childbirth can be. My delivery with my son was also quite difficult and so I am very aware just how lucky we are to have two healthy children now. Before having my children I was a children’s nurse and so I hope that my experience as a nurse and a mother and my enthusiasm to help out this brilliant charity might help other families in the future.
In July 2015 my first baby, a beautiful little boy called Aneurin, was stillborn. Despite a rollercoaster of a pregnancy including a late and unexpected diagnosis of Down’s syndrome and associated health complications it never occurred to me that our longed for baby might not survive. I blogged throughout my pregnancy and continued to blog through Aneurin’s diagnosis and his loss. I knew I wanted to honour his short but powerful life by using my experience in a positive way and blogging and volunteering for MAMA Academy allows me to do that.
I was incredibly lucky to welcome my rainbow baby, Lilian, safely into the world 13 months after Aneurin died. As expected, my pregnancy was fearful and I was constantly on edge. However, since volunteering with MAMA, I am armed with enough knowledge to know what to look out for which I was very grateful for as I was induced with Lilian at 36 weeks with reduced movements among other issues.
Although Aneurin’s life couldn’t have been saved, many stillbirths are preventable. I’m proud to be a part of an organisation that informs and educates both mums and healthcare professionals alike and really does help save babies lives.
I feel very lucky to have two wonderful children, Jasper who is 4 and Meg who is 2. Before having Jasper my first two pregnancies ended in miscarriage. I was devastated and when I fell pregnant again I was extremely anxious. I wanted to find out as much information as I could about having a healthy pregnancy, including knowing about signs and symptoms of concern. My midwives were very supportive but I felt I needed more information. I am thrilled to be involved with MAMA Academy as they provide a fantastic resource for mums to be, enabling them to find all the facts they need plus advice all in one place. Heidi is such an inspiration and her passion to reduce the stillbirth rate in the UK and to educate mums and midwives is so motivating that I soon realized I needed to do anything I could to help!
Midwifery liaison Officer
My first child, Leo Phoenix, was stillborn at 37 weeks pregnant, after an uncomplicated pregnancy. His death was such a shock, with no prior warning. Since then we have learnt just how common stillbirth is, and just how little it is spoken about. I am passionate about breaking the silence around stillbirth and have started blogging about our journey since Leo died. Since learning more about pregnancy loss I am now aware that there are many factors that I was not advised on during my pregnancy. Whilst they probably wouldn’t have saved Leo, I believe that by informing, educating and empowering families, we can all work to reduce the devastating effects of stillbirth in the future. Leo’s death is currently unexplained, although he gave indications that he was struggling, whilst remaining within normal parameters. Therefore, fundraising and working with organisations such as MAMA Academy is important to me, to ensure research remains funded, stillbirth sits at the top of the agenda, and wider conversations continue to happen to empower families, health care professionals and others involved in maternal health.
Two years ago I sadly lost my little girl, Sydney Eve at full term. There wasn’t many warning signs but the ones I did have were ignored and passed off as “first time mum syndrome”. Had I have known then what I know now I really believe my daughter would still be with us. For that reason it’s an honour and a privilege to be working with Mama Academy as a designer, helping to get literature in the hospitals and surgeries and helping to spread the awareness. In the last 2 years since losing my little girl I’ve noticed a huge difference in the knowledge midwives pass to mums-to-be and believe this to be down to charities such as Mama Academy.
I am now expecting my little boy and it was an honour to see some of our work on the hospital walls and wallets being handed out at my last hospital visit. It’s such a rewarding privilege to help other mums bring their babies safely into the world.
I’ve worked in the design industry for 21 years (which makes me feel rather old!) and owned my own business for 7 of those. I gained my Art and Design degree from the London College of Art & Design and now work alongside clients such as Duncan Bannatyne, Marie Claire, Next, Wonderbra and Specsavers to name a few – Mama Academy being my firm favourite of course!
Kate is a third year student midwife in North Yorkshire, and mum to two girls. Kate became interested in the work of MAMA Academy after supporting a number of women through pregnancy losses and subsequent pregnancies. She enjoys the promotion of healthy and positive pregnancies, and has been working to support the antenatal Wellbeing Wallet campaign – not least by skydiving out of a plane! Kate is looking forward to qualifying as a midwife, and continuing to support MAMA’s work.
Rainbow Pregnancy Supporter
In September 2013, at just over 38 weeks into my first pregnancy, I realised our baby hadn’t moved that day, and when we went to hospital, they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I delivered my beautiful daughter Esme, 7lb 1oz of perfection, two days later. I was shocked to discover that stillbirth was so prevalent in this country, yet there was no mention of it during my midwife appointments or antenatal classes. I firmly believe that all expectant mothers, not just those experiencing ‘high risk’ pregnancies, should be aware of risk factors for stillbirth and warning signs, including the importance of monitoring foetal movements and how to do so.
Esme’s death was unexplained, along with a third of stillbirths in this country, which meant embarking on another pregnancy was not necessarily going to end the same way, but was an extremely uncertain and scary time for my family. Thankfully, my son arrived safely in October 2014. In honour of Esme, and now Jago, I am keen to find ways to prevent other families from missing a very precious child, as ours always will. I joined the MAMA team as I am passionate about supporting midwives to keep their training up to date, and helping to educate and inform women to enable them to enjoy their pregnancies and keep themselves and their babies safe.