Cutbacks to maternity services during the Covid-19 crisis have led a Tyrone woman to launch a support service for new mums.
Sisterhood of Motherhood is a new social enterprise project being set up by Dungannon mum-of-three and former solicitor, Claire Hackett.
To help get her venture off the ground, Claire has raised £2,000 through crowdfunding to make 'Support Her Bags' for pregnant women, with the proceeds from sales used to fund the project.
The bags are a starter pack for mums-to-be containing locally-made pamper products as well as information on pregnancy and birth and sign-posting to local sources of support.
Claire, who is a qualified doula and works part-time in community development, has volunteered with parenting charities and breastfeeding support groups for six years.
"I felt I really needed to get it off the ground now as women are struggling more than ever during this pandemic," she said.
Her experience working with new mums made her realise there is a huge gap in services, especially now as they are more isolated than ever during lockdown.
She says: "It is something I have planned for some time but the current situation has given me the kick I needed to get it started.
"We know the NHS is under pressure at the minute and women are giving birth and adjusting to parenthood, not only with reduced maternity services, but isolated from family and friends.
"Midwives are no longer doing home visits and both parents can't go to scans and fathers can't be in the postnatal wards.
"Usually when a baby is born it is natural to be excited about friends and family and grandparents coming to see it and that can't happen now, parents are on their own.
"I know through the groups I volunteer with that breastfeeding rates are down because the support isn't there.
"The #sisterhoodofmotherhood is a long term project to provide support beyond this pandemic to help women access professional support when it is most needed."
Becoming a mum herself proved a life-changing experience for Claire (37) who gave up her career as a solicitor to instead devote much of her time to volunteering to support new mums and also train as a doula.
Doulas are trained, non-medical professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to women before, during and after childbirth.
Married to Mark (41), a civil servant, Claire lives in Dungannon and has three children, James (9) Matthew (6) and Nina (3).
Explaining how her first pregnancy changed her life, she says: "Being a solicitor never felt like the right fit for me but I didn't know what else to do.
"When I was expecting my first child I was fascinated by the whole pregnancy process and had to devour everything I could about what was happening to my body.
"I was absolutely petrified about the thought of giving birth and at the same time I found it the most empowering thing.
"It was like an onion and I was stripping away the layers until I found the real me. I remember watching the series One Born Every Minute and I got shivers down my spine and thought, 'Do I want to be a midwife?'
"I actually applied to study to be a midwife but got a job in the community group in the meantime and put it on hold."
When her first baby was seven months old, Claire got involved with a local breastfeeding group, initially for support.
She found it so invaluable that she went on to help establish what has become the biggest support network for breastfeeding mums in Northern Ireland.
The Tyrone woman says: "I wanted advice on how to stop breastfeeding for going back to work at seven months and found that I didn't have to stop. I ended up breastfeeding my first child for 18 months.
"That group of women taught me so much about informed choice and the importance of it around pregnancy. We don't have a breastfeeding culture here and getting support can be quite tricky.
"In 2013 I was asked to help set up an online breast support network for Northern Ireland on Facebook which now has 10,000 members.
"It initially offered somewhere for mums to chat and exchange advice and has evolved into a group known to offer respected evidence-based information to new mums.
"The women in that group taught me a lot about listening to other women and women-centred care.
"Through volunteering I am in regular contact with mothers, listening to and supporting them and this has given me good insight into what women need and the gap that currently exists - a gap into which their mental health, identity and self-worth can fall into.
"Maternity is a largely female area, propped up by mainly female volunteers giving their time and expertise for free and I think that needs to change."
Due to the current climate Claire was motivated to set up her new project and plans to initially use online video platforms to link new mums with experts who can help with any medical needs they might have.
She is currently getting her pamper bags for pregnant women together and aims to use proceeds from the sales to fund the service for which she has ambitious long term plans.
She adds: "With the restrictions on maternity services due to the pandemic, women are in need of support during and after their pregnancy more than ever.
"This is why I started to crowdfund to make the bags and have some valuable funds in place to provide the support in the community that our mothers will undoubtedly need.
"Through my social enterprise, I hope to have the money available so that a mum in need of skilled breastfeeding support, for example, can hire a private IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), or a mum suffering with incontinence could have a thorough postnatal pelvis health check with a women's health physio, thus getting the mother the best help and also paying the professional for their time and expertise.
"I have a vision for how I want this to be supported on a community level. I believe in the power of human connection, particularly mother to mother support.
"I intend on bringing women together in groups where they can provide each other with peer support, while learning a skill and making items that we can sell to get the social enterprise to self-sustainability.
"This group support, together with being part of something helping other women, will have a positive impact on the women's mental health."
You can support the Sisterhood of Motherhood crowdfunder at www.ulsterbankbackherbusiness.co.uk/sisterhood-of-motherhood