Wow, all I can say is that the birth unit absolutely stole my heart. I had the most amazing five weeks there and I’m not even sure where to begin. Firstly, all the members of staff were incredible and really made me feel at home and welcome there from day one. They were so encouraging which makes the world of difference, especially when you are suddenly placed in, sometimes, intense situations and you are completely unsure of what to do.
There honestly is no better feeling than supporting and encouraging a woman to bring a new life into the world. You are supporting someone through such an emotional, overwhelming and special time of their lives and it is the most euphoric feeling. During labour, when a woman is usually really close to having their baby, they can go through something called ‘transition’, they will feel like they just can’t keep going any longer. During this time it’s really important to try and calm them down, speak words of encouragement and get them to focus on their breathing and on what their body is going through. Once they get past this and they birth their baby, the amount of pride you feel for that woman is out of this world.
I learnt so much being there, and one of the fantastic things about being a first year at UWE is that everything is low risk. There is so much knowledge to take on board even when everything is low risk, my mentors were truly fantastic and got me stuck into everything straight away. I built upon my knowledge of history taking, labour care and how often to do maternal and fetal observations/auscultation, internal examinations to determine the stage of labour (as well as looking externally), and most importantly I learnt so much about appropriate communication skills.
When in labour, some women prefer gentle words of encouragement, some fully rely on you to get them through each contraction, and others would prefer you to be quiet so that they are able to get in ‘the zone’. Adaptation is another key concept in midwifery, each person is an individual and not one person’s labour is the same so it’s really important to keep in tune with the women you are looking after. Other skills that you learn include the importance of hygiene – hand washing in particular, especially when you are performing an internal examination, as well as keeping the room tidy. It’s also really important to maintain the woman’s dignity as much as you can. Last but not least (and there are so many other things I could include) is to alter the room to suit the woman’s needs. Although this sounds minor it is really important; dimming the lighting so it’s not as bright, ensuring a pool is ready before they enter the room and that the temperature is correct, using battery operated candles, playing music if they would like it etc. all of these ‘small’ factors can really help a woman to relax and get in the zone – aiding the release of oxytocin.
During my first two weeks of being on the birth unit I didn’t even see a single woman give birth. I looked after many women in labour, but either they didn’t deliver on my shift or they were transferred to central delivery suite due to complications. I think one of the main focuses when you become a student midwife is how many babies you have caught, but being on this placement made me realise that is not the case. One of my amazing flat mates is now on a different birth unit, which is much quieter and she hasn’t seen a baby being born in the three weeks that she has been there. However, she has seen women postnatally, as well as continued to do bookings and visits to women antenatally. I think one of the top tips that I can provide to any future student midwives is DO NOT PUT PRESSURE ON YOURSELF! Although people in your cohort might be catching babies, you are still building up your clinical knowledge and experiences in other ways. Although I have helped women to birth their babies, I can confidently say that my flat mate is 100x better at booking a lady than I am (she practiced on me), so try not to make that your penultimate goal as there really are so many other joys of midwifery.
I went straight back into the community after I had finished on the birth unit and I’ve just finished my third week. At the beginning I felt like I had forgotten everything, but it soon felt like I hadn’t left at the end of my first day. It also showed me how much knowledge I had gained from the birth unit. An example of this is at a woman’s 28-week appointment, we provide information with regards to pain relief in labour, and this allows her the opportunity to think about her options. I knew so much more about everything my trust provided from being on the birth unit, and I felt like I explained it so much better. Again it showed the importance of revisiting everything to consolidate your knowledge.
It’s scary to think that I finish my 10-week stint of placement in two weeks already! After that I only have six more weeks of placement for my first year. I will be sure to write another blog post after my next block of placement, in the meantime – please all send positive birth vibes to my lovely flat mate!
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