Lifting the lid – my life as a midwife PART ONE 

This blog has a few aims and I’d like to set them down before anyone panics about what’s going to be said 

  • To try and encourage other midwives why it’s ok to bend the system – but only if it benefits the woman and her family 
  • To inspire others to be different and think outside the box 📦 
  • I’m telling my journey and not only what led me into midwifery but what keeps me there 
  • I want to show the media that midwives do care about women 
  • There will be no breaches of confidentiality 
  • The blog is of my thoughts and feelings 

My life as a midwife began in 1982. I was a student nurse and on placement on a maternity unit learning about midwifery. I was sent into a room to watch a forceps birth – this was not in an operating theatre where complex forceps births take place nowadays but in a simple birth room – I can’t recall anything apart from the woman screaming and the way the forceps were used – it marked me for life so I don’t know how the woman progressed from it . I put off any thoughts of having my own children because of the way this woman seemed to suffer. Back then I was learning about life in the NHS , how to become a patients advocate , running my dad’s newsagents , continuing with my student nurse course which was run by the nursing school attached to the hospital . I was in shock afterwards and decided then I would never be a midwife . 

Fast forwards to the birth of my beautiful daughter in 1989 . I was admitted at 0.5cm dilatation and refused permission to go home because that’s how it was then – I was given a cervical sweep without being asked or consented for it and felt violated after the event asking the midwife “what did you just do to me ?” . 

“I swept and stretched your cervix , you’ll labour now” was the reply – I didn’t know what to say and I was in pain but I accepted it and just felt lost . 

I did eventually give birth 22 hours after my admission and struggled with the pushing part – the consultant was called in and I recall him shouting at me how to push and threatening me with forceps if I didn’t push harder . I gave birth on my back , semi – recumbent – no-one encouraged or suggested a change of position . I was GIVEN an episiotomy without consent and cannot recall any conversation about why this was DONE to me . More or less straight after my birth I was left alone with my daughter she was in skin to skin contact with me . This wasn’t because I knew about the benefits of skin to skin contact at all , but because I just didn’t want to let Jane  go – my mums death when I was just 18 years old had impacted on me massively and I saw something in my daughter Jane’s face that reminded me of my darling mum , I was so emotional I couldn’t put Jane down – despite being encouraged to . 

After the birth I developed bladder problems so had to be kept in for 5 days . I recall feelings of loneliness , sadness , especially when my partner and visitors left . There were strict visiting times in those days , no rule bending , no partners staying overnight allowed . 

Once home I felt more relaxed but my partner was only given one day off work . I had no one, both my sisters were in high profile jobs and both my parents had died when I was younger . A friend came for a few hours a day and tucked me into bed with Jane , I slept whilst she tidied up , cooked and was there for me , I didn’t know what had hit me . 

My community midwife Jean Duerden was amazing , I felt unwell had terrible perineal pain and couldn’t walk far – I accepted this as normal – I was a medical ward sister – I knew nothing about babies and / or petineums . My speciality was caring for men and women with medical conditions – a world apart . 

My community midwife Jean realised something was wrong and I was quickly fast tracked and diagnosed with a perineal haematoma – my sutures were subcuticular and very difficult to release so I had to persevere with analgesia and antibiotics . 

The visits from Jean my community midwife were the highlight of my days – she would bring a student midwife with her and we would talk about how I was feeling , the importance of rest and nutrition and emotional support . Jean also gave me brilliant Breastfeeding advice . One day I blurted out to Jean about my birth experience and she was amazing . I felt from my moments with Jean that she inspired me to become a midwife . Although my labour experience wasn’t great , my postnatal care was so different . 

Almost three years later I started my midwifery training and I have to say despite the ups and downs , staff shortages , media portrayal of midwives , the difficulties I’ve gone through in my career I love being a midwife . My own experiences have shaped me and taught me to listen , act and trust women . 

When I started my midwifery there were no computers – we wrote everything and risk management was very low key . I recall the Fire Officer teaching my group that the most important thing was to keep corridors clear and know which extinguisher to use in the event of a fire . This has stayed with me through my career and I get very upset when I see corridors with obstacles , I make it my mission to clear them . 

I kept a diary and was so thankful to form a life long friendship on my course with another nurse called April . My tutor Anne Ivill suggested that we would get on and we are still good friends to this day . April went to work on neonatal unit as soon as she qualified and is now a health visitor working with children who have congenital illnesses and special needs . We don’t see each other as much as we should but when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart . 

I’ve always been quirky and don’t like discipline or rules that restrict creativity, I was the same at school and used to get into trouble for standing up for friends who were unable to stand up for themselves . Once at high school a friend asked me to wait for her after a detention as she was scared of walking home on her own . We were barred from doing such things but I had a plan ! One of the teachers saw me on the corridor and asked what I was doing, I explained that I was waiting for Mr Heathcote to give me extra maths (a total lie).  Mr Heathcote was found and my cover was blown – I had to stay late all week and clean all the desks in T6 (one of our classrooms) . I made those desks so clean and using my anger with myself as energy to get the job done – the relief was that I didn’t get extra maths I suppose ! 😂

So how has my life affected who I am as a midwife and a woman ? The most influential part of my life was growing up in a newsagents shop , talking to people from all walks of life and respecting them all as valued customers . I worked in the shop from a very young age because I mithered my parents to let me . At first I was only “allowed” to sell newspapers or one item sales . The best day was DECIMALISATION DAY . I had learnt a lot at school about this and was determined to help in the shop but my parents said no . I was so upset – then around 7.30 my dad called me into the shop they were struggling – I was to be allowed to help ! I recall elderly people asking me “how much is that in old money ?” And I dutifully exchanged prices bank to pounds , shillings and pence to help them understand . I can recall if I was off school that day or not but if I was in school I still went in as for my parents not to send me I would’ve had to be really unwell . 

So I hope you enjoyed part one of my lifting the lid blog – in part two I will be referring to my student diary and how hard it was being the only one on the midwifery cohort with a young child. 

To be continued ….,.. 

Thank you for reading 

Love , as always 
Jenny x ❤️

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The operating theatre tea party – read on to find out more 

This week I was lucky enough to be in the multi-disciplinary team involved in the care of women pre peri and post – Caesarean section . 

Lucky you say ? Aren’t midwives supposed to only be focused on PHYSIOLOGICAL  birth ? well yes that’s one of our roles but we also care for women in the antenatal period – we run triage clinics with the fab support of a skilled maternity support worker – running tests on women then contacting the Dr for advice with the results – pure team work . We also care for women in labour who have complex medical needs , complex mental health issues and we work WITH the obstetric team to find the best plan of care – we do this together with the woman’s input . I am proud of everyone I work with – they give me hope . We also work on birth centres and attend pool births . We are community midwives we attend home births , we support women who have safeguarding issues , women who live under the threat of Domestic violence and women who have disabilities. We manage wards , units , we are heads of midwifery , we are ward midwives , labour ward midwives , specialist midwives  and we are mothers , fathers ,single women/men  , gay women/men  , straight women/men  , married men/women , we are spinsters / bachelors but most of all we are HUMAN BEINGS .  

Each birth I see means a lot to me as a woman, a midwife and a human . I don’t judge a woman because she has a more complex or simple birth than the births I had – I’m in MIDWIFERY because I want women to feel positive about their birth experience and EVEN after this weeks news I am still determined to try my best to promote physiology in all birth settings . 

Anyway back to the operating theatre . 

The team in the operating theatre where I work are so together with the families they meet . They all know the importance of #SkinToSkin contact and how utterly important it is for the woman involved to hold her newborn asap . So the ODP makes sure that the woman tucks one sleeve of her theatre gown under her arm , places the ECG electrodes on the woman’s back and adds a mini – extension to the top of the theatre table so as to give the woman a greater sense of space to hold her newborn . The scrub nurse prepares a sterile space on the cot for the obstetrician to place the baby onto AFTER delayed cord clamping has taken place . The baby is dried on the theatre table and then placed on a sterile sheet on a cot with wheels – the Midwife assesses the baby’s condition at the side of the parents – so they feel involved and the baby is not weighed – we aim for skin to skin contact prior to 5 minutes of age – unless there are concerns with the baby’s health – both parents see the baby immediately and one of them cuts the cord . The other parent is then helped with placing the newborn on the mothers upper chest safely in a prone position and the midwife STAYS next to the woman and her newborn supporting them so that skin to skin can continue for as long as possible , I have piloted this and women who are supported hold their babies for longer – so I leave my records until we go into recovery area . Photographs are encouraged (as many as the family want to take) and also music . This week we asked a woman which music she’d like – we don’t yet have a Bluetooth speaker in  theatre just yet (watch this space)  so I put my phone on as Coldplay was requested . The consultant anaesthetist (Dr Richard Cross ) left the senior registrar in anaesthetics in charge whilst he was away for two minutes . When he returned he was holding a metal NHS supply teapot – we all looked puzzled 😕 . Then he carefully placed my phone into the empty teapot – this acted like a mini speaker and it was just the right volume for the family – but not too loud to disturb the surgeons and the safety in the theatre . 

What I’m trying to say is that this kind gesture was all for the family – especially the woman – we were making memories for her – she’ll always remember that she held her newborn , whilst listening to Coldplay from a teapot – what could be better than that 

Once safely in recovery (transfer to recovery area takes place with skin to skin ongoing ) we encourage birthcrawl by the newborn and praise the infants behaviour as this helps with the maternal connection . The woman is offered water quite soon after (unless she has had a general anaesthetic- in which case we wait until she is safe to tolerate water ) and then a cup of tea ( two half cups so none has the potential to spill onto the newborn ) and some toast which helps with enhanced recovery – we try to take our time with being in recovery as the woman needs more time to bond with her child due to restrictions on movement due to theatre drapes & position . 

Thank you Richard Cross and all the team in theatre for your kindness , laughter , compassion and care 
I hope you enjoyed reading this latest blog 

P.S what I didn’t mention was that there was a language barrier , but kindness , compassion and communication still took place – and the music connected us all ❤️

Happy Saturday -with love  Jenny xx 

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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The baby’s here – NOW what ? 

You have just given birth – it’s your first child and I’m not sure whether you had a Caesarean birth or a forceps birth or your newborn arrived in a birth pool . What really matters is that you receive consistent, evidence based advice from the health care professionals you come into contact with and positive support from your family and friends –  you’ll be exhausted and must try not to rush yourself back to normality too soon – try installing a mindfulness app into your phone and ALLOW your friends to do your shopping/ ironing / take some laundry off your hands . Don’t be too proud to admit tiredness , worry and emotions . 

Take a good look at the #MatExp website and join the Facebook page for access to health care professionals , peer supporters and other new parents – ask questions and interact with others so you can gain knowledge and know when to recognise that things might not be quite right . 

The biggest thing to hit you right between the eyes is the responsibility of parenthood including how to cope with reduced amounts of sleep , hormone imbalances , post birth bleeding , the increase in laundry (which seems so huge for such a tiny person and more than double with twins !) and how to deal with unexpected visitors who always seem to turn up when it’s nap time . Who said babies sleep all day ? 

Well here is my blog to try and help you to make some sense of your early days 

Humans have been parenting for thousands of years , babies communicate through crying and facial expressions and you have an inbuilt mechanism that is made to help you to nurture your young . Keep on keeping on with skin to skin contact as new evidence shows that mothers who give their babies plenty of skin to skin contact are more responsive parents . Picking up your baby each time he or she cries is not spoiling the child – HERE IS A LINK TO EXPLAIN WHY A BABY DEVELOPS BETTER WHEN HE SHE IS PICKED UP MORE. UNICEF have lots of evidence based resources and this is a wonderful PDF document UNICEF leaflet on building a happier baby – we are in fact building humans – kindness and compassion towards our young helps the brain take in more information and this in turn reinforces to the child that kindness matters , so he she grows up to be more aware of her / his own feelings and the feelings of others . 

Trying to sift thought all the postnatal advice leaflets and decide which friend / in-law , relative has the best advice on getting your baby to sleep is just overwhelming . 

First of all don’t push yourself too much to get through one week unscathed – it’s better and more realistic to try and get through a couple of hours feeling positive about what you’ve achieved. Take regular pain relief to help your mobility and well-being and don’t scrimp on rest – did you know that skin to skin contact reduces pain in mother AND newborn? 

Let’s move onto  the key things your baby needs to grow and develop as well as feeling nurtured 
1.Love which includes feeling nurtured and receiving kindness . Love also means giving yourself kindness and listening to your own mind and body .A baby knows from the tone of your voice whether you are happy and feeling loving towards it – so try hard to keep love in your heart . If you are not feeling this way seek some advice – your love might come later , or you may just be exhausted . If you feel unwell , emotionally drained , or just flat talk to your midwife and let her know – she’s not their to judge you but to signpost you to the correct services available . Do not berate yourself if you are suffering from post-natal depression and/or anxiety – we live in a modern world that doesn’t seem to support the value of resting , being still and calmness – digital advances seem to put more and more pressure on us humans to try and prove we are beyond human – the modern woman  is the equivalent of a plate spinner – don’t take on too many committtments – try practising some self-care and slow down – your body and mind  need rest and stillness as much as they need love , nourishment , kindness and compassion . Here is a wonderful blog about a mother who realised she was shouting too much and was too distracted by others things that led to a kind of moodiness towards her children CLICK HERE TO READ 

2. Feeding your newborn is not just about giving a baby milk – the way a baby is held during a feed , the way a mother talks to her newborn and keeping the number of people who give the feed to a minimum has a more positive impact on the baby’s developing brain. I hear many women say “I’m not going to breastfeed as my family want to help me with bottle feeding”. 

The first feed of colostrum is a crucial power food to help the newborn to  begin its journey of life. Obesity is a now a public health problem and it’s time to address the low numbers of babies that are breastfed – if a baby maintains skin to skin contact with its mother at birth for over two hours – there is an increase in breastfeeding success – we are talking about not moving baby at all for any reasons including during Caesarean section, perineal sutures, returning to theatre for any reason and always considering SkinToSkin contact.

The postnatal period should include regular prolonged episodes of skin to skin contact to soothe babies , maintain the all important bond with the parents and help milk production . Breastfeeding helps babies to …

1.Recover from birth 

2. Feel safe and nurtured 

3.protect the immature gut and bowel by receiving immunity from the mother via her bespoke breast milk . 

4.feel comforted – because a baby that breastfeeds must be held close and that situation is very comforting to a newborn 

The one to “oneness” that #SkinToSkin and breastfeeding gives a newborn is actually is not something that can be replicated in another form – it’s a one off that’s been passed down the centuries , a primitive response that goes back in time to when we lived in caves and our mothers held us close away from other predators . It’s much more grounding for a newborn to feel close to less people and as it gets older you can widen the circle very gradually. SkinToSkin during breastfeeding gives the baby a strong sense of belonging . There are also responsive bottle feeding methods . The SLING LIBRARY offers information about slings across the U.K. click HERE for the website and slings give freedom to do other things whilst carrying your newborn hands free : ) 

A baby should never be fed without being held – being held during a feed is soothing and promotes a sense of safety & emotional security . Talking , singing and smiling during feeds with intense eye to eye contact is of paramount importance for a newborn’s brain development .  

3. Warmth – so important that a baby feels comfortably warm not overheated and is unable to move down under its blankets – the baby’s position should always always be on the back . The “Back to sleep ” campaign was started by Anne Diamond . Click HERE for more information about how Ann spread the word after the death of her beloved son Sebastian died from Cot death at only four months of age. It is now advised that babies are put on their BACKS to sleep and also that they sleep in their parent/s room until after the age of 6 months old . 

The media in general doesn’t give out evidence based advice and seems to berate parents who choose to co-sleep . Co-sleeping is something that must be discussed and Durham University has a sleep laboratory which has looked at how and why mothers co-sleep with their offspring – Click here for evidence and sound advice about Co-sleeping. Professor Helen Ball has filmed parents in sleep situations to help us to learn what’s safe and what’s not . The problem with the media is that by criticising co-sleeping they are actually promoting sofa sharing and feeding which is a dangerous practice . Click  HERE for an honest upfront article by the fabulous Milli Hill parenting and birth guru about co-sleeping. 

Your house is the environment your child will see as their safe place – so don’t try to change it too much as a temporary measure – keep it as your home to welcome your newborn . You can adapt areas as your child grows and develops . Try keeping changing equipment in two different areas so you don’t have to go to one room all the time . 

Let your bedroom be your safe haven where you can escape with your baby to feed , rest and avoid the “popper inners” the visitors who simply turn up unannounced . 

Try not to plan too many trips out too soon or those that require a long drive – as mothers soon get tired in the initial few months . A change of scenery is good though and can be a welcome escape from the house . Don’t be talked into your newborn going for a sleepover too soon – when it does happen you may  find yourself unable to relax until you hold your baby again . The other parent can walk the baby whilst mum rests (that doesn’t mean cleaning etc!!) and it’s a good thing to try and learn how to sleep in the day – even though it’s against everything you are accustomed to as a new parent you are  in fact a shift worker so must try and care for yourself or you will become burnt out , exhausted and this could lead to anxiety and / or depression and this applies to BOTH parents.

What about Dads ? Well I love social media and I found this great tool called TheDadPad which is £8.75 supported by the NHS and basically a set of information pads that are wipe clean and give good advice on caring for your newborn as a new dad . 

Same sex couples also need support – just because a baby has two mummies doesn’t mean that life is all hunky dory – all parents need to know they are doing ok . 

Isolation , poverty and lack of friends can affect parenting- but believe me , not having the latest pram or changing bag does not make you less of a parent . Health visitors are skilled at knowing where there is safe second hand baby equipment which is a lot less expensive – always google the product so that any warnings regarding safety are found before you commit yourselves to it – second hand equipment must come with full instructions and explanations as well as safety recommendations on how NOT to use . 

If you feel unwell at anytime in the first 6-8 your lifeline contact is with your local delivery suite . Here waiting isn’t long and you get to talk to a midwife one to one and discuss your symptoms . The problem with going to A & E is that they aren’t designed for mothers and/or newborns and they hold a lot of unwell people . If you have any pains or swellings in your legs / chest pain / fast heart beat / your bleeding heavily / your bleeding has an odour / you are hot and cold please do not delay as any of these symptoms could be a venous thrombosis or signs of sepsis – getting to the Women’s unit faster means quicker diagnosis and treatment . Read about sepsis in more detail HERE on the Sepsis Trust website where you can read about symptoms of sepsis clear concise information. 

Refer to your postnatal notes for yourself and your baby for clear advice on minor postnatal symptoms as well as why you may feel unwell – but more importantly talk to health care workers who will give you consistent advice about coping with a newborn . Don’t be fooled by perfect photos – underneath it all most new parents struggle with their lack of sleep . 

Try to get out during the day even if it’s just visiting a family member or friend at a house . Being isolated is not a good feeling and can be detrimental not only to your own mental and physical health but also the newborn’s ability to socially connect and brain growth . 

In this modern world it’s important to switch off digital devices and talk to babies – if you find this hard reading a book or singing songs is a positive way of communicating. 
Keep a mini journal of your days when you felt tired out and see if you are feeling less or more tired as the weeks go by . If you are feeling more tired look at what kind of activity you missed out on OR overdid . Did you eat well ? Rest ? See friends ? Spend any time in skin to skin with your newborn ? 

I’ve written this blog so you can try to find information that’s sensible and not prescriptive and I hope you find it useful . If it’s any consolation I was totally exhausted for months and I developed post-natal depression which wasn’t really talked about much in the 80s. I even left my daughter in her pram outside the local post office , not realising until I had say down with a well deserved cup of tea – needless to say I ran back for her and never did that again !! So you see if I can admit to that , what do you think other new mum’s have got up to ? 

Becoming a parent is lovely but it is not as perfect as it’s made out to be. Best beginnings have launched a series of films called “Out of the blue” and CLICKHERE for a link to a film on how new mothers can learn to look after themselves . If parents take good care of themselves they will be more likely to care for their children well and be positive role models . 

I hope my blog inspires you all on the start of your journey as parents and I wish you and your newborn love , kindness and understanding ❤️

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

#LeadToAdd 

LeadToAdd click HERE to learn more is the latest NHS England campaign # is #LeadToAdd. As a Caremaker I will be linking this on Twitter with my work on #skinToskin , #futuremidwives and #couragebutter to inspire others to see themselves as leaders regardless of their role . Patients, women, families and non-clinical staff are also leaders .  
I feel this will inspire/activate different meanings to different people

Here are some of my thoughts around it

What does to lead mean ? 
To take charge , to be at the front , to inspire , to educate, to be diverse 
Leading is about being at the front and CONSTANTLY looking back to bring others with you

Leading is about being the first to begin something but not necessarily holding onto that but looking at how your actions impact on the way others fulfil their role. Leading is being a positive role model, leading is about looking inwards at your own behaviour and also looking outwards at the behaviour of others . 

In the NHS all staff need encouragement to recognise themselves as leaders and also to see that some behaviours do not embody leadership. We are all learning each day, so don’t stay still – question yourself and the way you speak to others . Ask a colleague to listen to you talking to patients and staff and to give you feedback -what could you change ? Integrate telephone conversations into drills training-  talk to your practice development team – think outside the box . 

Someone who leads others into poor practice is a poor leader but a leader non the less so be aware of your own commitment to pass the positive leadership baton . We are human and it’s ok to make mistakes , however we must learn, evolve and change .

The other day I had a car journey with Joan Pons Laplana (@ThebestJoan on twitter) and once again he made me think hard about how the 6Cs are integrated into practice . Joan said to me that as a health care professional all tasks and procedures must embody the 6Cs – even answering a telephone call. 
As a form of reflection I’d like you to read passage one and then passage two
Passage One 
Busy labour ward – phone ringing , midwife answered the phone – we will call the person making the call Tony and his partner who is having a baby is called Dolores. The midwives name will be Darcy . 
Midwife ( confident and cheery) ” hello labour ward , midwife speaking how can I help you?”
Tony (nervous voice) ” oh hi – err my partner thinks she’s in labour , it’s our first baby and we are a bit nervous . Could I ask you some questions , she’s here but having a contraction right now and then she feels sick for a few minutes after its gone. 
Midwife “oh right well I need to talk to her please and decide what’s happening’  
I’m not going to continue this but could the midwife change her approach ? Is this midwife you ? A colleague? This approach has been learnt from a peer
Passage Two 

Busy labour ward – phone ringing , midwife answered the phone – we will call the person making the call Tony and his partner who is having a baby is called Dolores. The midwives name will be Darcy . ….

Midwife ( confident and cheery) ” hello labour ward , my name is Darcy Jones I’m a midwife and how can I help you?”
Tony (nervous voice) ” oh hi Darcy – I’m Tony – err my partner Dolores thinks she’s in labour , it’s our first baby and we are a bit nervous . Could I ask you some questions , she’s here but having a contraction right now and then she feels sick for a few minutes after its gone. 
Midwife “ok well I would like to take some details first whilst Dolores has a contraction . Thank you so much for ringing us . How are you feeling ? This is your first baby ? How exciting for you both!” 
I’m not going to continue this but could the midwife change her approach In either scenario – which is the best one in your opinion ?  ? Is either of these scenarios you ? A colleague? This approach has been learnt from a peer. 
So you see two examples each one leaving the person contacting  the service with different emotions . 
Start your journey as a #LeadToAdd leader today  ❤️
Thank you for reading 
Love , Jenny ❤️

The natural caesarean / the gentle caesarean 

There’s a debate on Twitter this morning about the ‘natural caesarean’ as a term that promotes a positive experience of birth by caesarean. I don’t agree with the term and I think as health care professionals working in the area of birth we should ensure that every birth is a positive birth . Milli Hill started the The Positive Birth Movement  with this goal in mind (@birthpositive on Twitter ) 

Bearing this in mind I’d like to ask the following questions for you to consider and share with with your colleagues, family , friends , midwives and obstetricians . 
1. How many women who have an emergency caeserean and/or instrumental birth (forceps or ventouse) are given information in the antenatal period about the far reaching health and psychological benefits of skin to skin contact in this setting to both mother and baby ? 

2. Compare the above with how many women are given information about  skin to skin contact around normal birth ? 

3. Compare both to how many woman are informed that skin to skin is possible during manual removal of placenta and repair of any perineal trauma in the theatre setting ? 

4. Are women informed 

  • They can TELL midwives to defer the weighing of their newborn in order to enjoy the benefits of prolonged skin to skin contact 
  • That they should never be separated from their baby unless a clinical situation becomes apparent or they themselves choose not to have skin to skin contact despite being FULLY informed
  • That their baby could ‘self latch’ at the breast without any handling by staff and also correct its own acidosis and stabilise its own breathing because of skin to skin contact ? 
  • That skin to skin and early breastfeeding “Pronurturance ” is linked to a reduction in the incidence of  postpartum haemorrhage?  CLICK RIGHT HERE for the Pronurturance paper 
  • That if babies could talk they would choose skin to skin contact despite their birth environment 
  • That skin to skin contact is the building block for a persons social and psychological development 

The midwives and staff on social media who talk about caesarean are not promoters of it , they are giving women information about choice – so that if the operation (which is major surgery) does take place then these women are able to not only enjoy their birth experience but give their relationship with their baby the best possible start . 

I suppose it’s similar to the question “does having a teenage pregnancy strategy increase teenage pregnancy rates ?  (and I much prefer the term  “young women”to ‘teenage pregnancy’) 

Does having full information about your choices if you do go on to have a caeserean increase caesarean rates ? I don’t know the answer to either of these questions but I do know that the women I have assisted and sometimes fought for to have skin to skin contact with their newborns in different birth situations have all told me this 

 
-that they never realised the positive impact it had on them as a successful mother

To me this is enough .   
Thank you for reading 

With love , Jenny ❤️

I am also promoting #MatExp as a platform which enables and encourages discussion between women, families and health care professionals .