In 1985 a small group of dedicated individuals and advocates of normal childbirth formed the information working party of the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM). This was in response to limited access to reliable, evidence-based information resources and research for practising midwives and students at the time.
In order to set the working party up as an organisation in its’ own right, an application for funding from the Greater London Council (GLC) was submitted and approved. This resulted in the formation of the Midwives Information and Resource Service (MIDIRS) in 1986.
Operating from a small basement office in Camden, London, and supported by a Management Committee from ARM, MIDIRS was initially comprised of just three people: Marianne Scruggs, Director, Sue Hawkins, Information Officer and Tricia Anderson, Administration Officer. The team was eventually joined by Jilly Rosser, Midwifery Officer.
It was here that the initial MIDIRS library classification system was formed and where all marketing and subscription activities took place.
MIDIRS information packs
Just as it does today, MIDIRS aimed to provide midwives and students with access to the latest and most important information, reports and research to feature in key midwifery or obstetric journals on a quarterly basis.
This required the MIDIRS team to scan a range of midwifery journals each month and to write short abstracts and commentaries of key research articles. It was literally a genuine digest of current, evidence-based midwifery and obstetric information. Articles on how to read and understand research were also included so that midwives could develop their own critical skills.
It was MIDIRS Information Packs that formed the foundation of the now quarterly international publication, MIDIRS Midwifery Digest.
Over time, MIDIRS outgrew the basement office in Camden, and moved to Westminster Hospital. As its subscription base grew and MIDIRS started to expand, other members of staff were taken on.
By 1988, the money from the GLC had been used up, following which the decision was made to accept sponsorship from Pampers for one year, which enabled MIDIRS to move from being a funded charity to that of a non-profit making but financially viable organisation in its own right. A year later, in 1989, MIDIRS took the decision to move out of London to work alongside the Institute of Child Health in Bristol.
In 1994 the Department of Health made funding available to MIDIRS and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, York University, to work collaboratively in producing a series of evidence-based leaflets, covering ten pregnancy-related topics. As a result, in 1996, MIDIRS Informed Choice was launched. The initiative, comprised of two sets of leaflets (10 in total) for both pregnant women and health care professionals, continued until 2000 when the Department of Health funding ended. In May 2003, MIDIRS self-funded the development of the resource resulting in the rebranding and relaunch of an additional five new titles (11-15). A further six titles were added in 2005, and another four in 2008, resulting in a mammoth 25 topics. The huge amount of work required to review each leaflet on a regular basis was impractical with such limited resources. As a result, the Informed Choice project was discontinued, and the 2008 editions were the last to be published.
MIDIRS and NCT
In December 2008 MIDIRS Midwifery Digest was distributed with a copy of Perspective: the NCT publication for parent-centred midwifery, to MIDIRS subscribers. This was the start of NCT and MIDIRS journey together and by February 2010, NCT’s 2000 strong network of students and qualified antenatal teachers, breastfeeding counsellors and postnatal leaders were benefitting from access to MIDIRS Reference Database.
In May 2011 it was announced that MIDIRS and NCT would be merging. The merger provided MIDIRS with the opportunity to raise awareness of its services to a much wider audience and for both charities to make significant improvements to maternity care, facilitate greater awareness of choice and to ensure that pregnant women, new parents and their babies received a positive birth experience.
MIDIRS in 2018
MIDIRS Library and Information Service now manage MIDIRS Reference Database, which contains over 250,000 article references covering the whole midwifery spectrum. The resource is continually updated, with around 1000 new references added each month, from over 400 different print and online sources. Individual subscribers can also access a range of pre-prepared literature searches.
MIDIRS Midwifery Digest continues to be distributed each quarter in print format to our network of health care professionals and students.
Institutes can take advantage of a multi-user license to access the database (Maternity and Infant Care) or MIDIRS Midwifery Digest via OVID Technology’s online platform service.
We continue to reach out to students and midwives through Facebook and Twitter, providing the latest UK-based and international maternity care news. We are pleased that our following on social media keeps on growing year-on-year with over 14,000 followers on Facebook and over 10,000 on Twitter.
With a strong international presence and increased engagement with organisations and individuals that share its mission, MIDIRS continues to provide high-quality, evidence-based information for those working at the heart of maternity care.
Extracts of this article have been taken from Anderson T. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 16, no 2, June 2006, pp 279-281. Click here for details.
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