Yeovil Hospital midwives launch new training across Somerset aiming to raise awareness of inequalities seen through pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Within the UK and across the world there are stark inequalities in maternal and neonatal mortality. The reasons for this are many but Yeovil Midwives Bea Chubb and Becky Cockings recognised that their midwifery training predominantly focused on white mothers and babies, from text books to training mannequins.

These discussions over a night shift together prompted them to apply for research funding through a scheme run jointly by the trust and Bournemouth University, ‘1,000 pounds for 1,000 words’ competition. Their submission looked at purchasing resuscitation dolls that represent black mothers and babies, to reflect the variety of families being cared for through the maternity service. The aim being to help broaden the training midwives receive.

It was by winning this competition that Bea and Becky were introduced to Emma Symonds, the trust Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Vanessa Heaslip, a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, and from the trust’s research team, Janine Valentine. With this team in place an initial idea was taken further, and a comprehensive training package was developed to increase midwives’ understanding of, not just clinical care, but of the impact of bias, stereotyping and microagression in health care. All of these are linked to poor outcomes through pregnancy, labour and also for their babies. Pre and post training questionnaires were completed and analysed to establish midwives understanding and the impact the training had.

Between the years of 2016 and 2018, for every 100,000 black women who gave birth, 34 died. In comparison, out of 100,000 white women, only eight died during childbirth in the same period. Bea and Becky’s research identified that enhanced training may improve the outcomes for families from ethnic backgrounds and are now taking action to make these changes.

Midwife Bea Chubb said: “Even though the worldwide statistics for baby mortality is declining, there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving these outcomes, especially when it concerns families from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Targeted initiatives have had more of an impact for white babies. We hope that the training package by the team will be able to make a difference for all babies and aims to improve the care we give.”

Each training session focused on implicit bias, stereotyping, jaundice and reviewing advice for parents once they are discharged from the unit. Feedback from midwives who have undertaken the training said it is fantastic asset and had a clearer understanding of biases and cultural stereotyping than they did previously. Those that embarked on the training made a full commitment to use what they had learned in practice to further improve our families pregnancy journeys.  

Midwife Becky Cocking added: “There was no doubt that our midwives would love the opportunity to further improve their skills and knowledge, especially when it meant providing better care for our patients. This is what we all come to work for; to provide the best care we can for those who need us.

“The responses we received after the training were overwhelming. Our midwives thought that throughout the training and experience they have gathered over the years, they were culturally aware, but feedback showed that the training gave them a much deeper understanding and opened up conversations with the team wanting to know more to help break the biases. I am so excited to see the positive differences throughout Yeovil Hospital and beyond and exceptionally proud of the work we have done and continue to do.”

As we celebrate the Day of the Midwife 2022 this week (Thursday 5 May) Becky, Bea and Emma are excited to roll out the training with the maternity team at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and, moving forward, they hope to secure funding to roll out the training across the UK, furthering the skills and knowledge of midwives nationwide.  

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