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Here is your role as a NHS Midwife …… my suggestions

Here is your role as a Midwife in the NHS

  1. learn about the guidelines and policies at your place of work .
  2. Complete your mandatory training come hell or high water despite not being given allocated time to do so
  3. Get up in the morning / the evening travel to work be on time , report for duty .
  4. Push yourself each day to be a little better than you were the day before
  5. When you are upset about something try and soldier on because everyone else is in the same situation
  6. Support new midwives and future midwives – be a role model as everyone takes note of the way you behave at work (don’t for a minute think that they don’t !)
  7. Practice 1-5 each day now add in caring  for women families ,getting along with your colleagues , getting a break everyday and leaving your shift on time

Stick to …….

Wait a minute Wait a minute.   REWIND REWIND REWIND ……

  1. Get on Twitter and join the community of midwives there sharing evidence based practice
  2. Immerse yourself in the computer system that will give you stats for your own practice (as well as others ) and look at how to improve them.
  3. Practice a daily ritual that is kind to you – respect yourself and your body clock get fresh air and sunlight each day pre or post shift Watch this programme “The body clock- what makes us tick?” on the relevance light (measured in LUX) has on the body clock and circadian rhythm .
  4. When you are happy and /or upset about something try and reflect on it through writing or recordings and seek advice from your occupational Health dept. Team up with another midwife from a different NHS trust and see yourselves as support buddies , reflect together on what helps you at work and learn new positive ways of staying focused and compassionate in your midwifery work
  5. Be professional in all you do through the your words / deeds / behaviour towards others including the way you communicate on your break – integrity is a huge part of being a Midwife . The words you speak in the office / break room and out of work are like a fragrance upon you when you are caring / mentoring and teaching.
  6. Having a break is set into statutory employment law – it ain’t no privilege – so plan your own break and get away from your work environment eat your food in a quiet place, do three minutes of mindfulness – your break time belongs to YOU – if you can’t take the full amount at once try breaking into bite sized amounts so you can eat / / rest / reflect but perhaps on three short breaks instead of one long one -also support your colleagues to do the same
  7. If you are a manager/head of midwifery consider how you get your lunch and try to be a role model – go and eat with the staff you manage – you might find out more through this than leading meetings
  8. If you hear a group talking about another colleague in a derogatory manner then challenge them why are they discussing someone who isn’t there to defend themself, then ask them to stop – if you choose to ignore this kind of behaviour you are condoning it
  • Always remember you are not at work to socialise but to put the women and families at the heart of what you do . If you find yourself questioning a colleagues work style – ask yourself this “is that colleague putting the woman first ? “
  • You’ll probably find the answer for the style of work is because the answer is YES!! So if you have a colleague who may seems to take a little longer with women or isn’t seen in the office much try and shadow them – sometimes taking some extra time can be more cost effective – a long chat pre discharge can arm women with knowledge about how to recognise SEPSIS , help her to recognise when her baby is feeding well or not and also to pickup POSTNATAL DEPRESSION earlier .
  • These are just my thoughts and it’s my first blog for ages so I hope you enjoy it
  • Be kind ❤️
  • Yours in midwifery love
  • Jenny ❤️©️2018
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    A Midwife’s heart and caring for families through stillbirth ❤️

    This is a very difficult blog to write . Yesterday someone highlighted a tweet to me about midwives and how they deal with the impact of caring for a family who may have to face the loss of a baby . It was to do with midwives knitting hats for stillborn babies .

    I have been a Midwife to many women whilst they birth their baby who has died before labour starts . It broke my heart each time I cared for these families. However I saw the fact that I was allocated to care for them as nothing but a true privilege and joy . I wanted to make the moments they had with their precious child special , full of love and memories . I helped them take the best photos . assisted them through washing their babies and also knew that I had to give them time to grieve and to communicate to them through deeds not words that I was “with them” totally . I cried with them , held them whilst they sobbed , even laughed with them – which may sound strange but it’s true . I cooked for them , made endless pots of tea and I washed their feet . I saw in these women & men a strength that can’t be put into words on a blog . I recall walking a couple through a labour ward to a bathroom with their stillborn son , so they could all be together in the bathroom whilst the mother took a bath – they insisted I sat with them ,so I did – on the bathroom floor – I know these memories are as special to them as they are to me.

    Midwives do not routinely get counselling post events like this – fire workers and police staff do so is the NHS missing a clue ?

    In 2006 I reflected on an incident at work where a woman came in to be induced and when I put her on the CTG monitor, we discovered that her darling son was not for this world . I was devastated and had to arrange childcare so that I could stay with the woman & her husband post my 21.00 shift finish . Another thing. that also hit me hard was that the friend I asked to help me with my young family had no qualms about saying yes – I later found out that the reason was that she had given birth to a stillborn son many years before (she told me that she felt by helping me she was helping the parents of the stillborn baby ).

    As I left the couple to go home much later , I wept from sadness for them and their empty arms as well as emotional exhaustion and was told not to cry by a senior member of staff. I couldn’t go into work the next day .

    What transpired was an article about my reflection by Rosemary Mander . The mother became a friend of mine & I helped her with a SANDS event – I went to her sons funeral and this connection helped me to cope as much as it did her to have someone who saw her son like she did – as a beautiful boy .

    It’s so important that we see our role as supporting parents through sadness & also happiness . The midwives who choose to knit hats are simply trying their best – they might not know what else to do – it’s s coping mechanism. You can’t train for events like these just like parents can’t prepare for this to happen to them .

    I’d like to thank Rosemary Mander for writing around my reflection in 2006 , the mum & dad of the darling son that was born asleep for giving consent to publish my reflection all those years ago (you gave me the courage to show my emotions to other parents) and also to my friend for her kindness in caring for my family whilst I stayed with the family ❤️

    Also thanks to @kwelsh1 for showing me this powerful sculpture by Albert Gyorgi called “Melancholy ”

    it sums up how any parent who loses a child must feel

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    Fear of Birth – A Poem

    I didn’t want a labour -everyone in my family knew

    I did want a baby though

    -my desperate feeling was not new.

    I’d always been nervous,fainted at the sight of blood

    told myself time and again that at birthing I’d be no good

    My husband eventually won me round

    We started trying for a baby but my mind couldn’t rest

    So many ifs and buts and a maybe

    we were pleased when we found out the positive test,

    Inside my body though I felt so stressed

    I had a tightness in my chest

    I almost wanted to shout & shriek (no one seemed to listen)

    I tried to talk about Caesarean birth with health professionals through the weeks

    -somehow they didn’t hear me -I felt soft , so ridiculous so weak.

    I couldn’t express my feelings, my fear of giving birth

    I felt anxiety would pass to my baby -I had no sense of worth .

    I went into labour I was scared and full of fear

    my husband and my mother were with me it helped me to have them near

    I failed to express myself to the doctors that I just couldn’t do it

    But it was as if my words couldn’t come out- I truly almost blew it .

    What happened next was down to the perception of my midwife

    She saw the turmoil I was in recognised my inner strife

    She stood side by side with me , told the Drs what I’d said

    She was my birthing advocate – my saviour through the dread

    A plan was made they’d finally noted every word I’d spoken

    I was going to have a Caesarean section it was as if I had awoken

    Don’t presume my fear had simply run away

    I was worried ,scared and still not quite sure what to say

    During the birth I could not look or speak or move

    But when I held my baby skin to skin I was overwhelmed with love

    My child was born and passed to me – I had achieved so much

    And to the midwife that heard me through the tears – THANK YOU – for your listening touch

    You really made a difference to me and my family

    I don’t know how I’d have coped if you hadn’t stood side by side with me

    @JennyTheM 16.5.18

    Dedicated to Yana Richens OBE @Fearofbirth on Twitter for raising the profile of women who have fear of birth and for teaching Midwives and future Midwives strategies to help women ❤️ thank you ❤️

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    Making a sacred space for birth

    This blog is inspired by the women I have cared for as a Midwife and also the wonderful Spirituality and Childbirth book book by & Dr Susan Crowther and Dr Jenny Hall . The women I have met and cared for in my midwifery career have helped me to invent new ways of working for and with them.This experience has shown me that in order to achieve a special birth experience we must be connected with the woman . The value of approaching each woman with a different perspective but the same professional compassionate values regardless of their mode of birth is the core of individualised care .

    It’s taken me all my midwifery career to reach this point and I am still evolving.

    Making a sacred space for women and birth is something that we should all consider as midwives. How many times do we enter a room of birth to find the light shining brightly the window blinds up, the CTG machine on full volume and the sounds of the hospital permeating into the room ? Who has the right to enter the birth room ? Perhaps now is the time to talk about consent and to ask women whether they want people to come in and out of their room for non-essential reasons such as trying to find equipment or the medicine cupboard keys . Do your labour wards and your birth centre rooms have a curtain after the door to maintain the dignity and privacy of the woman and her partner and to keep the sacred space? Are the room, it’s people and contents treated as “our” (Midwives and obstetricians ) space or as the woman’s (family , partner , newborn) space. Do we GIVE the space to the woman she enters the room? Saying “this is your room , this is your space I am your guest” or is it seen that we take control of the area ? What exactly is the solution? . I think one of the answers is to start by questioning ourselves as to how we are behaving. There are guidelines to help us give evidence based care and evidence shows that dark quiet rooms , aromatherapy , touch and the continuous presence of a midwife are all beneficial for women in labour as they give birth . How do we transfer this to a birth in the operating theatre or an area where women with a higher chance of intervention are cared for ?

    Do we need a new guideline that encompasses making a sacred space ? I think so .

    We must celebrate that midwifery care is still an essential core aspect of birth in the U.K. and share our stories . To summarise the work of Dr Trish Greenhalgh – each person we care for shows us new evidence and this can be individual evidence – it doesn’t need to be large scale. Therefore if your compassionate care works then that’s your evidence .

    My tips for making a sacred space are

    • Explain to the woman why a newborn appreciates a peaceful place to arrive in
    • Ask about aromatherapy try to stick with no more than three essential oils as using more can dilute the effect
    • Look at the lighting in birth rooms – can the lights be dimmed – find a lamp to give you some light for record keeping
    • Take all that’s required into the room and make yourself an area that does not intrude into the woman’s space but that also increases your time in the room
    • If the Drs come into the room and require extra lighting turn it down after that requirement ends and try to use local lighting instead of general lighting
    • Use a drape in theatre to create a skin to skin tent where the new family can bond and take photos and don’t leave them to do your notes – do that later . Keep a check on the mums and baby’s condition regularly.
    • Use massage to help increase the woman’s own oxytocin levels and darkness will also enhance the melatonin / oxytocin effect .
    • Stay calm and talk quietly – try not to disrupt the woman’s hormones which are affected by noise .
    • A sacred space means comfort , calm , love and kindness must be tangible within that area – it’s not about the space as much as the atmosphere- the way you help a woman to achieve this will have a long lasting positive effect not only on her self value but also impact you in your own practice in a wonderful way .

    Please think carefully wether you are a hormone disruptor or a hormone enabler .

    Be a true Midwife .

    This blog is not to tell you how to be but to provoke thought on our practice and try to help you and others to see how we can effect a positive change for women in their birth settings

    Thank you for reading

    Yours in midwifery love 💕

    Jenny ❤️

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    Postnatal transfer to the ward from labour ward – my thoughts

    A DM (Direct Message) on Twitter is a message you receive from someone that no one else can see – apart from the people included in the message.

    In the past four weeks I have received 7 DMs from a mixture of midwives , future midwives and women all with the same subject matter . This subject is mainly about ‘who decides when a woman is transferred from the room she gave birth in to the postnatal ward’ This seems to be a hot topic at the moment as the variation in time from birth to transfer is huge – especially when comparing Caesarean birth transfers to other birth transfers (and it might surprise you to know that the variation in birth to transfer time to the ward for women who have Caesarean birth is also vast – some units care for these women on the labour ward until their spinal has worn off , some units transfer to ward within a short time in recovery which leads me to question that support with breastfeeding must be patchy).

    Just the other week at Salford University Midwifery Society Conference ‘Transforming Birth’ click HERE for a summary of the day – I asked a question to the audience “are you, as future midwives pressured to move women to the postnatal ward (after they have birthed their babies) faster than the women themselves would like or you as a future autonomous practitioner would like ?” The result was that over 80% said YES.

    Do we as Midwives consider our own autonomy enough when we are working ? In order to give the woman a sense of feeling cared for and nurtured individualised, compassionate, holistic midwifery is paramount . Each woman is different- some may prefer a rapid transfer , others may not . Some women may need extra support to establish breastfeeding or be debriefed post birth or some women may want to rest in a quiet place with minimal noise before they are moved to the ward . If a birth takes place in a birth centre which doesn’t focus on time , women will stay in the same room post birth until their discharge home.

    In the NHS patient care sadly revolves around the concept of time . If a patient is not seen , admitted or discharged within a four hour time frame (see photo below ) it is considered a “breach”

    Certain procedures have a standard time frame in which so many can be done – this is how operating theatre lists are generated and how the NHS deals with waiting lists .

    However birth is and must be a positive experience – even though it has coding costs and some births are planned to the day -we must give women more than they expect – stand up for them , be their advocates. Challenging the system is one of the ways we can make change happen – if we all accept each day “this is the way we do this” we cannot be developing our roles or our practice to improve woman centred care . I’m not saying it’s easy but I want you to imagine what care you would want for your sisters and your daughters ? Then give the women THIS care – I am in the NHS as I nursed my own mother until her death at home – I see the connection between care at birth and care at death . I have been a nurse to the dying and that experience has impacted on the care I give to women in a most human way .

    Whatever care you give , whether you transfer a woman in your fastest time or not is all rather irrelevant when you focus on the bigger picture – YOU are responsible for the care you provide , or you don’t provide -if you tell a student to do something that is YOUR responsibility and I suggest referring to this NMC publication which I look at each day The NMC CODE . If advice or suggestions are not kind , caring and have a direct clash with your duty of care , if a more senior Midwife tells you to do something this should be documented in the notes and be evidence based, kind and resonate with your trust guidelines plus the NMC code.

    Sometimes we are stretched short staffed , rushed and under pressure but at no point should this be the woman’s problem.

    So the next time you are preparing a woman for transfer to a ward just think

    • Have I given her & her partner enough time alone with their newborn
    • Have I helped initiate feeding
    • Am I rushing her ?
    • Do I feel under pressure ?

    Then if necessary give her some more time – and when you arrive on the ward give continuity of care to the woman and her newborn by transferring in SkinToSkin contact , admitting them both to the ward environment yourself , taking and recording observations , checking the woman’s pad and fundus ,getting the woman a drink and this will also help your colleagues on the ward immensely.

    ❤️Be a holistic professional caring Midwife ❤️

    Thank you to the student of Salford University and those who DM’d me on Twitter – you inspired this blog

    Thank you for reading

    Yours in midwifery love

    JennyTheM

    ❤️

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    The future midwife and the midwife 

    A few weeks ago I was working with Emily Leeder a student midwife who has since completed her training and has now finished her time at my trust . I really like Emily she totally gets me and my sense of humour and she has picked up some of my traits – which is strange but lovely to see – I feel that when I do retire I will leave a little bit of me within Emily’s practice .  Emily also inspired this blog CLICK HERE TO READ about the importance of appropriate touch in midwifery . 

    We both saw the positive effect of a small glass of a well known energy drink (NOT Redbull!) made flat by stirring profusely and how women who hadn’t eaten in labour felt better after it . We christened it our ‘chemistry set recipe’ for an energy boost in labour .

    When we worked together we automatically shared roles and I think that neither of us felt controlled or ruled by the other – we were there for the women and supported them but we were in harmony as future midwife and midwife . Emily taught me the true meaning of mentorship as she messaged me for support and also wrote me lovely feedback for my revalidation.  I gelled with her and never felt judged by her or unable to ask if she knew something I didn’t . 

    A few weeks ago we were with a woman who was at the start of her journey to becoming a mother . With this wonderful woman was her partner and her mum . We were having a discussion about skin to skin and delayed cord clamping and I asked the woman’s mum if she had experienced skin to skin contact at birth  with her children. The mum said “not really , my baby was born then weighed , measured and checked by another midwife , whilst the birth midwife was helping me to birth my placenta and check if I needed stitches – which I didn’t – so then I was told to have a shower . Within half an hour I was transferred to the postnatal ward ” 

    My reply was off the cuff and I didn’t realise how funny it was until Emily had to leave the room crying in laugher . 

    I said “a shower ? You gave up skin to skin contact because someone told you to have a shower ?! We are mammals – imagine other mammals giving birth and being forced to wash within an hour of birth . In fact right here right now let’s just imagine an elephant giving birth to a baby elephant cub and one of the female elephants shouting out ‘Get into that river now & wash !’ It just wouldn’t happen would it – no one would argue with a newly birthed elephant mum would they ? ” 

    It really doesn’t seem as funny now but it’s left a great memory for me , Emily and the family – and the woman gave birth and did NOT get pushed into the shower at all . In fact she chose to have a wash a bout three hours later , after LOTS of skin to skin with her newborn ❤️
    Thank you Emily for helping me with my journey as a mentor – I’m always learning and I wish you well at your new NHS trust – keep in touch 

    This is my first ever scheduled blog and it’s for three reasons 

    1. Today will be the third anniversary of the day I started presenting to raise awareness of skin to skin contact – you can read the storify of the day HERE or just search #MAMMevent on Twitter 

    2. I will be presenting at Coventry midwifery Society today the # will be #CovBF17 

    3. To thank Sheena Byrom OBE for believing in me as a public speaker and also for friendship and kindness when life was tough for me . 

    I am proud to be a midwife 
    Love from Jenny xx 😘 

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    The Caesarean experience 

    How good is the approach to women who have a caesarean to birth their babies ? Do all NHS trusts routinely give the same care to each woman and newborn or is it tailored to each individual ? 

    I am passionate that the caesarean procedure is also a positive uplifting experience for the woman her partner and their newborn . 

    I get upset when I hear stories from different midwives at various NHS Trusts that skin to skin contact at Caesarean section isn’t routine or perhaps not discussed antenatally . From today I’m championing that skin to skin contact should be a priority for ALL WOMEN AND BABIES in the operating theatre and I’m doing this for several groups of women including those who

    1. Were totally unaware that  skin to skin contact at caesarean was possible . 

    2. Hear stories of women who held their baby skin to skin perioperatively when own their babies are older and they missed out on it which leaves them feeling robbed and upset. 

    3. See photographs of babies in skin to skin contact during caesarean and they didn’t know they could take photographs 

    4. Realised that skin to skin is possible but they weren’t given the choice 

    5. Feel sad that the baby’s other parent wasn’t encouraged to hold their baby skin to skin during the caesarean operation . 

    And this blog post is also for any woman who has an assisted birth in an operating theatre – I’m going to help you challenge NHS systems and change the birth discrimination between normal birth and birth in theatre . 

    Why am I calling this BIRTH DISCRIMINATION

    In my opinion every woman who gives birth should have the chance to hold her newborn in skin to skin contact even if only for a few minutes perhaps because the newborn requires transfer to neonatal unit or the woman feels unwell peri-operatively . 

    Women who have a normal vaginal birth are more likely to hold their newborn for longer and separation from their newborns during the ‘golden skin to skin  hour’ will be less likely to happen. However, if a child is born in the operating theatre separation will occur within half an hour because of risk assessments meaning that the baby is moved as well as that within some NHS Trusts phones or cameras are not allowed in theatre and here are my thoughts on this matter which is close to my heart . 
    We can no longer ignore the birth discrimination that exists between normal birth – where the woman has prolonged uninterrupted skin to skin contact – and assisted birth . It’s the role of everyone who is involved with birth in the operating theatre to work together to reduce and / or eliminate this birth discrimination.  I’m talking about midwives , anaesthetists , paediatricians , obstetricians , neonatal nurses , ODPs , maternity support workers coming together to form multi-disciplinary teams to plan how skin to skin contact length and opportunity can me maximised and separation minimised . 

    We are all aware that skin to skin contact is beneficial in numerous evidence based ways (just go onto google scholar and search “skin to skin contact at birth”  to both mother and baby. It is NOW time to take action and assess each woman and baby individually instead of adhering to a ‘one size fits all’ approach . Of course there are women who may have to have a general anaesthetic – so consider this from the baby’s point of view – and work out a way that the other parent might be able to provide skin to skin for the newborn . 

    We are in 2017 and now is the time to make change happen – talk about this to your MSLCs , the labour ward forum meetings , MDT meetings and be pro-active – together we can all make a difference 

    Thank you for reading – jenny ❤️

    To be continued ….. 

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    With woman midwifery 

    ❤️Before I start I’d like to thank Soo Downe for using this photo of me with my pinards in her slides during this years EMA ❤️ &  thanks to Jacque Gerrard RCM for letting me know. 

    Hello , are you a midwife ? Have you ever heard or said any of the following sentences ? 

    “I’m coming in the office for a few minutes , they don’t want me in there all the time” 

    “I’ll leave you in peace for a while – you don’t need me here all the time” 

    “I’m giving them some time to themselves whilst she’s in the early stages” 

    There is evidence and research to prove unanimously that women who have continuous one to one care have less pain relief , more incidence of normal birth , less perineal trauma and feel more positive about their birth process . As midwives there’s always information to share and explain that the woman may not know about . I also view my role as a guardian to the partner making sure he or she feels involved and free to ask questions . So the next time you hear yourself or a colleague say “I’m leaving the couple I’m caring for as they don’t need me in their birth room all the time” just remember leaving them  isn’t evidence based practice – staying with them totally is 

    Resources on continuity 

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/14651858.CD004667.pub5/asset/CD004667.pdf?v=1&t=iwl6t8eo&s=72d734e7de6a3665a8d183e2d5df1492e37dc2ec

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673616314726

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266613816300572 

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    r – Evolution in the NHS is happening right now 

    Let’s go right back to 1980 the year I joined the NHS . I was a student nurse . My first ward was E1 a male surgical ward which was run like a tight ship. The captain was the sister and she ruled the seas – quite literally especially when I flooded the ward because I’d left the metal bed pan steriliser running during a ward round !!! 💦💦The consultant was paddling in his leather shoes, his trousers suspended at half mast like sails  – he never spoke to me but I was told off , humiliated and belittled. I wonder if that’s when I first saw the value of humour at work ?  Because suddenly the patients adored me ! Fast forwards 33 years to 2013 , you’d think I’d have learnt my lesson ! A busy shift and I was working on the beloved birth centre , women were spilling  into it because the delivery suite (a term I do not like – birth ward would be better) was full . A midwife friend asked me to keep an eye on the birth pool she was filling and I forgot as the woman I was with was overflowing with oxytocin and gave birth . So the best thing I hear is someone shouting ‘flood!’ Oops a daisy – run outside the woman’s room (not the room or my room – take note!) to find Mr Amu our lovely consultant standing in water laughing at me and saying “how do we sort this ?” My friend Carol the cleaner in hysterics with me as we rallied water suction machines , towels , sheets ANYTHING to stop the water moving further . Do you see the difference between 1980 and 2013 ? Now those of you who know me well know I’m a joker as I regularly shout to lovely Carol the cleaner “quick I’ve had another water incident !” Of course I’m joking and of course we laugh out loud and Carol tells me off – giggling . 

    The evolution is happening because  as the years have passed social media has been accepted as a form of communications and is effective connecting more staff and service users than emails and/or phone calls. However much more than that NHS staff can find out what’s happening (or not as the case maybe) either within their own trusts or in other trusts they may never ever visit or work at . By sharing evidence, good practice  , learning from others and communicating openly we are slowly stamping out poor practice and improving quality . Patients talk to staff within an open forum , staff read more articles and are constantly trying to improve the patient experience . 

    For me I think the lightbulb moment has been that I can make a difference , I can challenge practice and I allow myself to keep learning, growing and connecting . I’ll take you back to 1980 – all I knew was where I worked – now I see so much more-  and the wonderful people I’ve met on social media ? Well we would have never met ! So thank you social media from the staff and families of the NHS.

    Let’s keep on evolving 
    Thank you for reading 

    With love  , 

    Jenny ❤️

    Antenatal education, Anxiety, Birth, Breastfeeding, Caesarean section, Compassion, Courage, Fear of Birth, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Intra-operative care, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, Learning, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, Newborn attachment, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Patient care, Post traumatic stress disorder, Postnatal care, Psychology, PTSD, Respect, Skin to skin contact, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart, Young mothers, Young women

    Fear of birth 

    How can midwives help women who have a fear of birth ? 

    If you meet pre labour I cannot over emphasise the benefits of using a doula service – doulas connect with women and support them through pregnancy , labour, birth and the postnatal period – I value all doulas and I have learnt so much from them . 

    Sit beside the woman at her level , listen carefully with your eyes and your  ears . Demonstrate that you accept her fear as real and tangible and do not dismiss  it by saying “you’ll be fine, lots of women give birth”. When as a midwife you first meet a woman, it’s crucial for you to have open body language which means arms by your side , warmth in your eyes, and you should display love and truth . Ask the woman if she wants you to hold her hand , this is a connective proces and a simple yet effective of cementing your relationship with her . 

    Help the woman to gain a rapport with you and confidence in herself by demystifying some of her previous experiences  eg the gas and air didn’t help last time , I tore badly last time , I failed at breastfeeding last time. this time it just might . Be a source of knowledge and light for her .  Explain that you are with her that you love your job and you will be her advocate throughout .  

    Explain the process of pain in the cervix and why relaxation can help , use mindfulness links for her to listen to and actively take part in them with the woman and her partner to show your commitment to them both . Teach her that an internal examination is about choice, consent and that she is the one in control with an ability to stop the process at any time . Also explain her human rights matte in labour. . The woman may decide against internal examinations – be with her in this decision. 

    Hold the woman’s hand when she is talking to you , this will let her see that you are kind and that you  want to help her . Say things like ” I can see vulnerability in your eyes , tell me how I can help you , I am with you” “how are you feeling at this present moment? ” 

    Ask what her fears are – one woman I met recently was so scared , she thought that she might die in labour – this may seem irrational but it’s acutely important to know that these expressions of fear are very real to the woman herself . 

    Don’t talk about feeding intention , sometimes a woman’s confidence and belief in herself are knocked for six when there have been difficulties with breastfeeding and this can manifest as fear in labour . Discuss instead why her newborn craves for skin to skin with her at birth and that these physiologically magical hours are also to help her feel validated once she has given birth . 

    Help the woman to focus on the moment not what might happen this is mindfulness in labour.

    If a woman has had a straightforward birth before , her perception of it is what matters not what the notes say or the fact that it appears to have gone smoothly. 

    Try your best to stay in the room most of the time , even use the ensuite in the room yourself once you have asked her permission to do so . Your aim is to to reduce her anxiety and fear of being left by the midwife .

    Handover information to the team on shift about the woman and her fear of birth so that staff enter the room peacefully and introduce themselves . If someone enters the room and doesn’t introduce themselves, do it for them. 

    Ensure that the partners voice is heard and that they see you are trying to help by using open questions . Learn what they do , how they met and see their love for one another . 

    Don’t push the woman to have stronger analgesia , the key is give information. It’s crucial to give full explanation of all analgesia and their effects not only on the woman but on the baby and its ability to feed after birth . The pain is the woman’s pain and she must feel heard regarding her analgesic choices. 
    Never underestimate the value of finding  a midwife that knows the woman and also suggest aromatherapy. Frankincense is wonderful scent that reduces anxiety and if used in combination with other scents has a calming pain relieving quality . 

    Keep the room darker and ask staff to be respectful by not  entering the sacred birth room – interruptions increase adrenalin response which blocks the production of oxytocin and if her partner can get on the bed too this helps the woman to feel safe and loved . 

    Explain that you will not talk loudly during the birth and also try not to leave the woman afterwards , complete all notes in the room . Sometimes the most vulnerable time for a new mother is immediately after her child is born . Staying with her to help with positioning and handling of her baby will serve to strengthen her own belief in herself .

    Avoid using terms such as “good girl” use the woman’s name to speak to her so that a sense of trust is built upon . 

    Explain why prolonged skin to skin contact will help the woman after the birth , it is revalidating

    If you think she might need your help with a shower or bath that’s fine – ancient cultures have washing rituals and cleansing is sometimes quite cathartic for a postnatal woman plus you are showing that you care about her and reaffirming that human kindness makes a difference to someone’s experience .

    It’s important to be aware of fear of birth and how it manifests in women sometimes it’s difficult to recognise  in the antenatal period and might not be disclosed until labour . Women with a fear of birth  must’ve given time , feel listened to and feel supported . 

    Whichever way the birth takes place stay with the woman , and be a constant for her . 

    Read as many articles as you can about fear of birth let women know that you understand , follow @FearOfBirth , Yana Richens is a consultant midwife at University College Hospitals London NHS Trust who has just submitted her PhD on fear of birth , she has extensive knowledge and experience . Also Kathryn Gutteridge aka @Sanctummid who is a consultant midwife at Birmingham Women’s who recently co- hosted a tweet chat on  the @WeMidwives platform together with   @TheLovelyMaeve  Maeve O’Connell (a senior Irish Midwife who has also submitted her PhD) . The tweet chat discussed  the subject of Tocophobia . 

    Lastly try to write a birth story for the woman from her newborn . When a woman sees words on paper that reflect how she gave birth and her newborns belief in her the effect is indescribable . This will pass into the next generation and you will be affirming birth to many others who read the letter. Never underestimate the effect that your actions , inactions or displays of love , kindness and compassion will have on a woman and her family , they will unknowingly to you. Quite simply your support kindness and compassion will last much longer than a lifetime. 

    Thankyou for reading and thank you to wonderful Claire Harrison midwife and friend for believing in me and inspiring me to write this piece .

    Love from Jenny 💛❤️💛XXXX