(To find out more about the National Maternity Review, click here.)
There are massive differences between midwifery today and midwifery even 30 years ago. For instance, when my Mum trained as a nurse (I know we’re talking midwifery here, but at that time most midwives had to train as nurses first) she had to live in special onsite accommodation.
They weren’t allowed boyfriends over to stay, self-folded paper nursing hats were part of the uniform, and the town was so small and sleepy that wheelchair assault course evenings were Big Fun. Compare that to the wild midwife nights out when I was training, and you can see it’s a different world.
One of the things that's changed most is the use of the internet, computers and other digital resources in practice.
Considering I run a midwifery blog and big midwifery support Facebook group, you can kind of tell how bright and wonderful I think technology is for advancing practice and social change…
But the National Maternity Review has drawn attention to the fact that digital resources aren’t being used enough.
What Women Are Saying
The National Maternity Review cited research from the Department of Health saying that women find trustworthy online information to be just as important as trustworthy healthcare professionals.
This might sound like strange prioritising, but if you think back to the last big life experience you had, did you Google the heck out of it? I know I did - knowledge is power.
When you think about the review's emphasis on reporting that women feel pressured to make choices in line with the interests of the maternity services, you can see why women might find accessible, high-quality information important.
Of course, there's a heck of a lot of pregnancy information online, and often it's anecdotal or biased in some way, so giving women access to NICE Guideline inspired info seems a wonderful idea.
The review suggested this was to be achieved through an 'interoperable comprehensive online record and digital tool'.
Which seems to be a fancy way of saying women's notes are to be electronic, and coupled with evidenced based information personalised for women, and the package is to be accessible for both healthcare professionals and clients.
This should help in many ways, and prompt midwives and other professionals to sing from the same evidence-based and women-centered hymn sheet.
What's Out There Already?
You guys already know I’ve raved about ‘Baby Buddy’, which is a free specialist teenage pregnancy app that gives information and choice step by step.
Midwives are of course all important, but an app gets the information to a teenager in their own world (most teenagers even living in poverty will spend money on their phone).
It’s also in engaging, targeted language which is so important for learning.
Nottingham have an app called ‘Pocket Midwife’ which has pregnancy info but also specific information to Nottingham like contact numbers. It also has an early labour support bit of the app, because just a bit of a reminder of having a hot bath or keeping your strength up with some toast can be really helpful.
And of course, there’re loads of reminders about when to get in contact with a healthcare professional, for instance when fetal movements have decreased or changed.
These kinds of apps could be rolled out over the country which I'm really excited about. All kinds of learning styles could be supported - videos, pictures, stories, different languages, audio and so on.
Why Else Technological Advances In Midwifery Are Important
One line in the review made me laugh out loud:
"South Warwickshire midwives use a tablet computer to enter information into the electronic record."
It might be my daft sense of humour, but it sounds like the South Warwickshire midwives just have the one tablet, and pass it among themselves kind of like in that Disney film Hercules where the three witches share one eye.
But in seriousness, this seems to help cut down on the amount of time midwives spend notetaking and planning appointments (as women can choose their own), freeing up such valuable time for one-to-one care.
Electronic records that are easily accessed by healthcare professionals will also help with continuity. I think all midwives and obstetricians have been frustrated at one time or another by having to order notes that turn up 24 hours after they’re needed.
If bits of a women’s history get lost, this can lead to mistakes or oversights in her care. Blood tests and other bits of information should be automatically collated in one place - in terms of observations and documentation, this would also mean notes are far less likely to go missing, as happened at Morecambe May, to disastrous effect.
Plus, it’ll mean it’s clear from the beginning if there’s something sensitive healthcare professionals need to know about that client – everything from needle phobia, to the death of a baby.
It’s painful and unnecessary for a bereaved parent to have to put their story into words every time they see a healthcare professional.
Electronic notes should help with that.
Finally, the controversial £3000 'maternity care budget' for women is something that will be provided via electronic choices. You can read more about this here.
So, exciting times ahead for midwives and women. If I'm privileged enough to have babies in future, I look forward to the apps!
I would so love to hear your opinions on this, whether you're an aspiring, student, newly qualified or very qualified midwives - or even if you've just dropped by to read Midwife Diaries because you're interested. The views of women and anyone who cares about women's rights are all important. Leave me a comment telling me:
Do you think the use of digital resources is a good thing?
Or do you think that technology could limit the human aspect of midwifery care?
As always, thanks so much for reading, it's so surreal for me to think about people on their phones or laptops thinking about these ideas via my own thoughts! And that connection is the beauty of the internet.
I hope you're having a wonderful week and this has helped you get a clearer picture of where the maternity services in England are going.
Much Love, Ellie x