Midwifery staff in Leeds shed light on their roles for International Midwives Day
Midwives have had to play even more of a “significant role emotionally” this past year according to the chief nurse of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.
As the world marks International Midwives Day today, Lisa Grant told the Yorkshire Evening Post, the midwifery team in Leeds have been “amazing” in coping with the challenges of the past year - including providing extra support to mums when partners were restricted from visiting due to Covid.
“Initially that was really limited and partners weren’t allowed to be with mother for long periods of time or at all. So midwives had to play a significant role emotionally - they do anyway but they had to do that even more.
“And [manage] the anxieties for the women coming into the organisation to have their babies. I can’t imagine how they felt with that anxiety around not just their own risk of catching the virus but their unborn child at risk too.”
She said midwives are “special anyway” but added: “For them to step into the organisation every day with that positive, can-do attitude with smiles on their faces and help overcome our patients’ anxieties - it’s just amazing to me how people have continued to do that.”
There are a total of 473 midwives at the trust who helped deliver 8,586 babies between March 2020 and March 2021.
Here the YEP talks to three midwives who work across Leeds - at home, in the community and on the hospital wards - about their job and the past year.
Naomi Robertson, a midwife of 20 years, runs the trust’s home birth team - a service which has continued throughout the majority of the pandemic.
She admitted the last year has been “tough”, adding: “There were so many things we didn’t know and so much uncertainty but we’re pleased we were able to maintain choice for women.”
The number of home births in Leeds is slightly above the national average of 2.5 per cent.
Naomi, who has six children herself, said attending her first home birth “changed everything” in her career and described the bonds she forms with the women and the feeling of being guests at their baby’s birth as “incredibly empowering”.
“I’m a real advocate for choice and being passionate about women’s health and rights was one of the main reasons I wanted to become a midwife.
“Having a baby in your own environment with those you choose around you can have an incredibly positive impact on your pregnancy and labour hormones.
“This is a hard job, both physically and emotionally, but I love it.”
In the community:
Cate Wetton, a community midwife team leader in Leeds, made the switch from nursing to midwifery after her own pregnancy and says she has “never looked back”.
She said: “It’s a real privilege to be there to support women as they transition in life into being a mother.
“Every day I’m amazed by the women I meet. They’re never at their strongest than when they are becoming mothers.”
Traditional community midwifery roles cared for people antenatally and postnatally but Cate said in Leeds, midwives now rotate into hospital to care for people when birthing their babies to provide “greater continuity”.
She said: “I’m fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people and experience great leadership here and I’m proud to be part of this service - women in Leeds genuinely do get good care. And whilst we might not always get it right, there’s a constant drive to do better and improve.”
She added: “The International Day of the Midwife focuses on encouraging midwives to come into the profession and then to stay. I’m definitely an advocate for that.”
On the wards:
For Laura Jones, it was witnessing a midwife in action which inspired her to switch career plans from a sports degree to midwifery.
“A neighbour had a baby and the midwife was visiting when I was there and I was so inspired by her care and compassion it was then that I decided to train as a nurse followed by completing my midwifery training.”
Laura is now a mum of four children including a set of twins and it is the field of multiple pregnancies - twins or triplets - that she has chosen to specialise in.
“We have an enhanced service for those carrying multiple babies which means we see women more frequently throughout their pregnancy and we follow them from the beginning right through to the postnatal period, including providing care at their birth. We develop a very close bond with the patients and I feel very lucky to do this job.”
Laura said the past year has been difficult for patients, particularly postnatally, with new mums being separated from their partners. She said the staff have “stepped up” their contact on the ward as a result, “encouraging new mums to stay in hospital until they feel confident to go home, but it has been hard as they naturally want to be with their partner at home”.
But she added: “I love my job so much, the ability to make a positive impact at such an important part of someone’s life is a real privilege.”
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