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Midwives play crucial support role to women birthing during COVID-19

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service’s most senior nurse has paid tribute to the important role the organisation’s midwives have played in supporting pregnant and birthing women throughout the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As International Day of the Midwife approaches on May 5, WBHHS Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services Fiona Sewell said now was a fitting time to recognise the crucial role midwives played in building trust and confidence in women through uncertain times.

“Having a baby can be a scary experience at the best of times – particularly if you’re a first-time mum or there are risks associated with your pregnancy – so we completely understand the anxiety that many pregnant women might have been feeling throughout the COVID-19 situation,” Ms Sewell said.

“It’s important that families know our hospitals are safe places to birth, and our teams are doing everything they can to provide information and reassurance to our mums-to-be as they support them on their pregnancy journey.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had an impact on the way we deliver our midwifery services, but in many ways a lot of positives have emerged from it, such as flexibility in consultations with the help of telehealth or home visits.

“But at the heart of a relationship between a midwife and a woman is trust – and I think this has been key to supporting our mums through their pregnancies.”

The theme for the International Day of the Midwife in 2020 is “Celebrate. Demonstrate. Mobilise. Unite – Our time is now”. Ms Sewell said midwives had certainly embodied that by responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and forming close bonds with their clients.

Hervey Bay Hospital midwife Jess Williamson and Bundaberg Hospital midwife Amy Plowman, who are part of WBHHS’s Midwifery Group Practice team, said mums across Wide Bay had been grateful for and receptive to changes in response to COVID-19.

A Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) model provides care and support from a known midwife, or small team of midwives, who are responsible for a woman’s entire pregnancy journey, from antenatal care through to labour, birth and postnatal care.

“A positive of Group Practice is that three members of the team have the opportunity to build rapport with the patient and their support people, which I think improves the clinician/patient relationship and fosters feelings of trust when birthing,” Ms Williamson said.

“This is especially beneficial when faced with challenging circumstances such as the current COVID-19 environment.

“We’ve increased our use of phone and telehealth appointments to reduce unnecessary travel or exposure, and the value of the strong rapport we have with our patients has really shone through during COVID-19.”

“We’ve been seeing our women and providing their antenatal care in their own homes rather than in a clinical environment, which allows them to minimise contact with places like the hospital and the Margaret Rose Centre,” Ms Plowman added.

“It has increased the level of support that we can provide because when you are talking and educating women on what to expect, it’s in a relaxed setting where they’re comfortable.

“I feel like our rapport with our women has improved because of that, and has resulted in a closer relationship of trust.”

First-time mum Brooke Hadley, who gave birth recently to baby Bronson at Hervey Bay Hospital, said she couldn’t praise her team of MGP midwives enough for the way they supported her and provided her with reliable and updated information.

“As a pregnant first-time mum, I was absolutely petrified when COVID-19 was announced – both for my own and for bub’s health, as well as what it meant for my birth and whether my partner could be there,” Ms Hadley said.

“I wasn’t even sure how I would enter and exit the hospital safely, and I relied on the Blue MGP team to guide me through.

“The girls were really reassuring, and they explained everything to me in detail, ensuring that I was kept up to date with information and changes – even if that meant calling me shortly after I’d left an appointment, because something new had just changed.

“The team is amazing. I don’t know if I would have got through this whole experience without their support. I felt like Jess was actually going through everything with me.”

Tamie-Lee McCullough, also a first-time mum who gave birth recently to baby Oliver at Bundaberg Hospital, said she was impressed at how well everyone adapted to the challenges of COVID-19.

“Even though everyone was thrown in the deep end, including the midwives, you wouldn’t have known – it was almost as if it was the norm,” Mrs McCullough said.

“I was worried I would miss out on all the things that would have got done, but Amy had everything – I still got the all the blood pressures, heartbeat and everything so I was getting the exact same service. But really, it’s better, because I didn’t have to leave my house for it.”

Having the same midwife on her pregnancy journey, including for her postnatal appointments, has also been reassuring to Mrs McCullough and is helping her adjust to being a first-time mum.

“I got to have Amy for everything and I still get her now. She was there for everything, she knows me and my personality – it’s just so much easier,” she said.

“I had very consistent visits for four days after the birth. After giving birth and having to turn around back into your crazy new life that you don’t know yet is very draining – so having someone you know and already trust come to see you and your baby just makes it a lot easier.”

Last updated: 5 May 2020