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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 ….. 

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

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 . 

The Gentle Caesarean – Gentle with what ?

Last year I was lucky enough to work in a general theatre for a week . I met a wonderful general surgeon and watched him perform bowel surgery . I noticed immediately how gentle and kind he was with the internal tissues and how calm and respectful he was not only towards the patient and his body , but also the staff in the operating theatre. All the staff admired this surgeon – you know when you can just tell ?  

I asked the surgeon afterwards about his technique and he said this

 “I always respect the tissue Jenny- tissues , blood vessels  , muscle and skin are part  of our human make up and being gentle with them means I am showing tissue respect and respect to the patient who is a fellow human . Being a gentle surgeon takes longer but believe me the outcomes are better and I know that there is less trauma , post-op bleeding , infection, pain and therefore happier patients and staff .”

Currently there is a lot in the news and emerging research around “The Gentle caesarean” and I am looking at this from a different angle  (and for those who know me well I don’t do acceptance well – I like to ask things so that others unable to ask might think differently ) so I am questioning what this term “Gentle Caesarean” actually means . Does Gentle Caesarean mean just the moment of birth or should it be right from the decision or choice of the woman to have an operative birth through to arriving home ? 

So for all those who work in the field of midwifery , obstetrics , intra-operative care, surgery , pain management -I would like you to watch a caesarean from start to finish and ask yourself “was that a gentle caesarean from that the moment that the woman arrived in theatre ? Was there gentleness with the woman’s feelings and choices ? Did the obstetrician, scrub midwife and others maintain gentleness towards the internal tissues and the to the baby? Was the transfer to the bed from the operating theatre table gentle ? Was privacy and dignity maintained at all times? 

Just because we have always done something a certain way does not mean that “the way” is always the best . 

I hope I spark someone to change practice and make “The gentle caesarean” standard across the NHS because then it will spread  globally – we must question on a  daily basis what we do and why we do it .
Thank you for reading , please leave feedback and / or share this blog with your colleagues 
With love and midwifery kindness , 

❤️Jenny❤️
Addendum today I am thrilled that The Times journalist Katie Gibbons has written an article about skin to skin contact at Caesarean  CLICK HERE to access or being the rebel that I am here’s a photo 😁