Hello Midwives and Midwives in the making, this is another Midwife Motivation Monday! I post every Monday to help keep us focused on all the privileges and rewarding moments of our profession. To prevent me feeling like a deranged midwifery motivational speaker just saying 'midwifery is awesome....it's just so awesome!' over and over, each Monday I pick an inspirational or motivational topic backed up by hard science.
I've had an......um.....erm.....intense week. The words 'shit', 'magnet' and 'Ellie is a' have been thrown around by my colleagues. How rude! I've given my adrenal glands a good work out, but don't worry, no Mums or babies were damaged during the week of this post. In some cases their well-being was significantly improved thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, and judicious use of theatre, syntocinon, and magnesium sulphate, not necessarily in that order.
And here was me harping on about the virtues of low risk care last week. Being a midwife is a delicate balancing act isn't it?
Anyway, this week my topic is premature birth and the role of midwives.
Nurses and obstetricians are often the healthcare professionals thought of when premature birth occurs. We should acknowledge and thank them for the work they do to nurse premature babies and save hundreds of thousands of lives.
But Midwifery Philosophy has a role to play in premature birth as well.
A video about premature birth and skin-to-skin cropped up on YouTube, and it was so brilliant I just had to share it. If this isn't soup for the midwifery soul, I don't know what is.
In 2010, Sydney, Australia, a premature birth of a 27 week baby boy took place. He was one of twins. His sister was coping well with support, but he didn't respond to resuscitation. His family named him Jamie, and he was passed to his Mum for a goodbye cuddle, to help her start to cope with the reality of one of her twins dying.
Skin to skin was started to help with the process and make the most of time with her baby. But over the next two hours, her baby started to make good respiratory effort, and move. The warmth of his mother and probably the regulation of his heart rate and respiration in response to hers was enough to push him back into breathing.
Jamie Ogg is now 4 years old and seemingly has no damage from being born at 27 weeks, or from the oxygen deprivation he must have experienced.
You can see a video about all the events here:
Midwives encourage Mums to use their instincts and do things on their own terms, even when a baby has died.
Without the midwifery care or the supported skin-to-skin practice, it's very probable that Jamie Ogg would not be alive today. It's so impressive to see skin-to-skin work in this way. It's clear from the home video that Jamie even started to root around.
There's evidence that skin-to-skin is an example of 'deep pressure touch'. Deep pressure touch triggers a process in the amygdala sending the message 'I'm safe' to the baby, reducing stress. I wonder whether it was this effect that allowed Jamie's recovery.
Officially, skin-to-skin contact was first suggested by Dr Sanabria of Colombia as a way of looking after premature infants in a hospitals with very limited number of incubators back in the 1970s.
You could argue that midwives had little to do with bringing this care into being. But skin-to-skin contact must have been around and within midwifery care. We know this based on the factual account of a pre-term baby nursed skin-to-skin at home from around 25 weeks in Call the Midwife, who survived well.
Jamie Ogg's premature birth story is a remarkable example of what basic, low risk techniques can do and it's a brilliant thing to be inspired by in practice.
This story has had a massive effect on the way I commit to skin-to-skin contact. Instead of trying to get the baby check done quickly after a birth, I'm much happier to finish notes, get Mum a drink etc, or encourage other family members to do skin to skin if Mum is too tired or doesn't want to.
The result is happier, more settled, breastfeeding babies with better blood sugars and temperatures. And Mums tend to love it too. I hope this story will stick in your mind, make you proud to be a midwife, and persuade you that skin-to-skin is where it's at.
I look forward to having a slightly quieter week (hopefully!) with some positive outcomes. I hope you have a brilliant week too whatever you get up to, and you feel reassured that midwives do an epic job.
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