‘Tell them to have chocolate raisins. I don’t care what the obesity guidelines say. Get a relationship with them -- then you can talk spinach.’
This advice was from an old tutor of mine. She’d worked as a teenage pregnancy midwife in deprived areas of Ireland.
Chocolate raisins might not sound ideal diet advice - but compared to the chips, coke and cigarettes many of her clients were living on, they're an iron-rich superfood.
She knew chocolate raisins were right on the teenage mum's radar.
That’s why I was so thrilled when I came across this 'Baby Buddy' App, made by the charity ‘Best Beginnings’:
It’s free to any parents, but designed specifically for teenagers.
I’ll give you the details on what the app does, and why I think it's such a 'game changer' (to quote the RCM) -- but first I wanted to ask, have you ever come across this charity before?
‘Best Beginnings’ has caught my eye. Midwives and other professionals do an amazing job caring for vulnerable women, but the sad truth is sometimes we have our hands tied by policy and funding.
Best Beginnings addresses areas we can't always get to head on, by making resources -- for instance by making these kind of films for families with premature babies.
It was started by a Mum of two disabled children in 2007.
It’s even lobbied for the Breastfeeding Manifesto, with UNICEF and Royal Colleges - and all this with just seven employees - supporting women, and midwifery, staying on the edge of innovation.
They look for stuff that works *now* because they’re fired up by inequality.
Young parents are Best Beginnings' next group to support - because though teenage pregnancy is at its lowest rate ever in the UK it's still true that:
- Half of teenage pregnancies are in the most deprived areas
- If you’re a teenager in the UK, you’re still more likely to become a mum before you’re 20 than if you lived anywhere else in Western Europe
- Babies born to teenage mums are 60% more likely to die
(See more stats + challenges of teenage pregnancy here.)
Many teenagers need services specific to them (guideline) and in a lot of places, that’s just not a possibility because of funding.
So Best Beginnings have consulted important people - like parents and professionals – but make massive strides without having to slow down for politics.
81% of teenagers have got a smart phone with them all the time.
So it makes perfect sense to reach out to teenage mums in a place they’ve chosen.
Here’s a clip from the App:
As you can see, it’s not just midwifery info – there’s emotional support too. Teenagers are usually dealing with other stress like exams, and their personality changing, as well as pregnancy and being catapulted into the adult world.
I think these little chunks of clarity are invaluable.
The app has a useful piece of advice or quote for them every day, which is about the part of pregnancy or postnatal period they’re at.
They can also search the archive, and the info they get is high quality, but also very tactical/truthful in the way it engages with them.
For instance, on morning sickness:
‘You can make yourself feel slightly less awful by:
Getting up slow and eating a plain biscuit....The only good thing about morning sickness is that it tells you your hormones are doing their thing and your baby is growing.’
Whereas in comparison the NHS website says:
‘If you have morning sickness, your midwife will initially recommend that you try a number of changes to your diet and daily life. …Symptoms should ease as your pregnancy progresses.’
Which one of these approaches d’you think resonates with teenagers more?
I know of some midwives who say an app is a step away from the contact with midwives that vulnerable clients need.
We're so low on time for appointments that just pointing teenage mums to an app might feel like sticking a plaster on a volcano.
I so agree that more time with clients would be best for everyone.
But the info in the app was written by doctors, midwives and others to support care, not to replace it. It also has "remember to ask"’ prompts, encouraging teenage mums to ask important stuff at appointments.
And today, teenage mums are going to be doing a lot of research on phones (they're not so into leaflets) – this app makes it easy for them to get high-quality info where they want it.
There is one slight issue I had with a 'fact of the day' from 41 weeks:
‘The doctor or midwife may try to break your waters. This means a thin piece of hooked plastic is put up your vagina to poke a hole in the amniotic sac...this is completely safe for the baby.’
This info is not strictly evidence-based, as amniotomy could increase the risk of cord compression and other issues (Cochrane review). The app is continually being improved, so hopefully we'll see this changed.
But overall the app is incredibly evidence based well researched and puts everything into a format that anyone can understand. Which is a real achievement - and much harder than it looks.
Getting onto a client's wavelength is not always easy, or even possible, when you only have 10 minutes and it might be the first and last time you meet.
This app is written in a way which communicates to teenagers that they are important.
To quote Ina May Gaskin:
'When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.'
I think the Baby Buddy app is part of this social change for the better.
Now...I'd love to hear what you think
- Do you have insights on the app to share?
- Are you a midwife already using the app with teenage mums? Can you give your professional opinion?
- Are you/have you been a teenage parent -- what do you think?
As always, thanks so much for reading, and for the insightful comments that people are leaving. It makes my little bit of internet so much more valuable to midwives and others involved in care!
And it gives me loads of encouragement and reflection that I really love - can't believe we're up to 1000+ subscribers, it blows me away as MidwifeDiaries has been going for years and is suddenly getting a lot of supporters... I'm so grateful for every single read of a post 🙂
P.S. My next post is on something I feel deeply about... it's going to be on some of the strong but fair criticism I've got so far as a midwifery blogger, and what I've learnt from it.
Thanks for being so passionate about midwifery that you're reading about it in your spare time, you rock.