“Midwives are advocates for women during their pregnancy and labour”

Sunday 5 May is the International Day of the Midwife, a day to celebrate midwives all over the world and the vital work they do. Louise Frost, screening lead and matron for fetal medicine and the antenatal clinic at St Mary’s Hospital, discusses why she became a midwife and how the Trust’s midwifery team support women to make informed choices during their care.

Making a difference

I decided to become a midwife because I wanted to make a difference and ensure women and their families have the best possible experience at one of the most important times of their lives. 

I qualified as a midwife in 2004 and went on to work in a range of different areas of midwifery: on labour wards, in antenatal clinics and in the community, then finally as a screening midwife and co-ordinator – responsible for overseeing the screening of all pregnant women and babies.

I began my current role at the Trust in August 2018. I oversee the antenatal and newborn screening pathways and lead the fetal medicine and immunisation midwife teams. 

Midwives: advocates for women

The word midwife means ‘with woman’. We are here to be advocates for women during their pregnancy and labour, which means we have a responsibility to make sure they have all the information they need to make informed choices about their care. We then support them with these choices, providing information during face-to-face appointments, and in booklets and leaflets they can take home with them. We also have the mum and baby app, which allows women in North West London to design their own personalised care plan based on information about local maternity services.

I find it really rewarding to be in a position to enable women to make these informed choices. A woman who decides to come to the Trust for her maternity care will have a choice about where she plans to have her baby; whether in a labour ward, a birth centre, or at home. We provide advice to help her make this choice and may recommend different locations depending on her suitability, in all cases we provide individualised, woman-centred care. 

It’s also satisfying to know that in my role I’m ensuring women are being seen throughout their pregnancy by our team as and when they need it. We provide the 12-week and 20-week scans and screening for inherited conditions such as sickle cell and thalassaemia, so we can offer women a referral to our fetal medicine team if any of these screening outcomes indicate a need for a specialist assessment. 

Improving maternity care 

What led me to my current role was that I wanted to be able to get out into the wider maternity service to improve women’s and babies’ outcomes. It’s been great to work together on improvements with the Trust’s whole maternity services team; not just the midwives, support workers and phlebotomists, but also the obstetric team and other multidisciplinary team members that come into our clinics. 

One of the ways we’re improving care at the moment is by creating several continuity of care teams of midwives for certain groups of women, such as those having multiple births. We’re doing this as early adopters of NHS England’s Better Births programme. Providing better continuity of care has been shown to lead to better outcomes for women and their babies, so it’s been great to hear that women receiving care from these teams of midwives have so far been really positive about their experiences.  

We’ve also been implementing the Saving Babies’ Lives care bundle – a set of measures to reduce perinatal mortality. We have acted on the recommendations made in the bundle, for example raising awareness about fetal movement so women know when to contact a healthcare professional, and supporting women to reduce smoking in pregnancy.

I am also aiming to develop specialist parent education classes for women having multiple births, and also for women with diabetes. We already provide specialist care for women with diabetes in pregnancy, and we want to reflect this in the midwifery care so that women with diabetes in pregnancy have continuity of care throughout their pregnancy, but also in the postnatal period. This way we hope to normalise their pregnancy for them, while ensuring they’re offered specialist care when they need it. 

Careers in midwifery

Midwifery is a profession that continues to develop and is ever changing, so there are a lot of opportunities to develop your career. 

My advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in midwifery would be to spend some time with some midwives. Try and understand the current situation in midwifery and what the priorities are nationally in terms of what we’re trying to achieve and where we expect midwifery to go. You should also think about the reasons you would like to be a midwife. We have a good team to support student midwives here, so if you are on a placement at Queen Charlotte’s or St Mary’s, have a think about how we at the Trust could support your training. 

I recently attended the Royal College of Midwives conference in London. It was an opportunity to come together and reflect with other midwives and celebrate our profession. We are in a unique position as midwives to enable women and their babies to have the best birth experience possible, by ensuring they are fully informed at each stage of their care, supporting their choices and ensuring safe outcomes. 

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Read more about how midwives at our Trust are improving maternity care for women and babies in North West London.

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