Always Ask - about our safer pregnancy campaign

Tommy’s, King’s College London and BabyCentre have launched a new campaign, ‘Always Ask’, to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns.

24 April 2017

Each day in the UK, 10 babies are stillborn and 152 babies are born preterm, causing untold heartache to parents and extended families.

Tommy’s, with King's College London and BabyCentre, has launched a safer pregnancy campaign to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns. 

The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of women who end up with serious pregnancy complications or loss. A body of research from King’s College London has shown that women’s knowledge about their own changing body is invaluable in contributing to safer pregnancies but that they often struggle to voice their instincts and concerns. 

'My daughter Bobbi was stillborn on 2 July 2016 and every single day since then I have wondered what if I'd really insisted things weren't okay. It's so important to do this, not just for better outcomes but also so that if the worst happens then you know you did everything.'  

Anna, read the full story

‘Always Ask’ challenges the fears that prevent women from seeking information on how to recognise potential problems and gives them tips on how to manage the appointment, get listened to and taken seriously by healthcare professionals.

The campaign centres on two animations co-created with women and health professionals.

Fear of wasting time or being a nuisance has been shown to be one compelling reason for failing to discuss a concern. A poll filled in by 1,300 women on the Babycentre website showed that more than 60% worried about wasting time before raising a concern, and almost 30% of didn’t speak up because of their concerns. 

"If I had seen this I would have thought more about the fact that medical staff want to help rather than feel like I was being a pest."

Trusting your own instincts in pregnancy is an important theme of the campaign. Pregnancy information often focuses on specific red flag signs and symptoms such as stomach pain or bleeding. Although the importance of raising awareness of these should not be underplayed, this has inadvertently led to a situation whereby women who don’t have ‘classic’ symptoms can feel their concerns are not valid, and they can struggle to be taken seriously if they are seen by a healthcare professional. This is why this campaign deliberately does not talk about specific symptoms; instead it encourages women to trust their instincts and ‘look out for changes that don’t feel right.’

How you can support the campaign

  • Share the two videos on your website, blog and social media channels using the campaign hashtags #alwaysask
  • Write a blog post about the campaign or we can guest-write one for you.
  • Repost, retweet and share Tommy’s campaign posts throughout the campaign week.

Contacts at Tommy's

Kate Davies: [email protected] | 02073983465
Deirdre de Barra: [email protected]

Notes to editors

  • Campaign hashtag: #alwaysask
  • Always Ask is a campaign from Tommy’s, King’s College London and BabyCentre.
  • The Always Ask campaign animations can be viewed here
  • The campaign arose from Re-Assure, a project led by Dr Nicola Mackintosh, Research Fellow, King’s College London with artist Claire Collison and animator Patrick Beirne, brokered and supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London.
  • For information about Tommy’s, comment or interview with CEO Jane Brewin or for interviews with case studies, please contact the press office on 0207 398 3436 or email [email protected]

Research behind the campaign

  • Rance S, McCourt C, Rayment J, Mackintosh N, Carter W, Watson K, Sandall J (2012) Women's safety alerts in maternity care: is speaking up enough? BMJ Qual Saf 2013;22:348-355.
  • Carter W, Bick D, Mackintosh N, Sandall (2017) A narrative synthesis of factors that affect women speaking up about early warning signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia and responses of healthcare staff. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth BMC series 201717:63 DOI: 10.1186/s12884-017-1245-4J
  • Mackintosh N, Watson K, Rance S, et al (2014) Value of a modified early obstetric warning system (MEOWS) in managing maternal complications in the peripartum period: an ethnographic study BMJ Qual Saf 2014;23:26-34.
  • Mackintosh N, Sandall J (2010) Overcoming gendered and professional hierarchies in order to facilitate escalation of care in emergency situations: The role of standardised communication protocols, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 71, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 1683-1686, ISSN 0277-9536,
  • Mackintosh N, Watson K, Rance S, Sandall J (2015) I’m Left in Fear: An Account of Harm in Maternity Care. Case Studies in Patient Safety, Ed Johnson,J. et al. Burlington MA, Jones and Bartlett Learning.

The Re-Assure project

Women's intuition and expertise: a valuable asset for midwives to harvest 

The Always Ask campaign developed from a project called Re-Assure, in which a team from King’s College London developed an animation to enable women to share their safety concerns about life threatening illness, in order to facilitate a maternity response.

The full of version of the #AlwaysAsk film is shown below

Always Ask