Student midwife blog, June 2014
I’ve spent the past few weeks on placement at the Birth Centre and Labour ward putting the skills I have learnt at uni into practice. It’s been a really exciting time, and I’ve learnt a huge amount.
So far I have witnessed five normal births and delivered three myself, witnessed my first emergency Caesarean section, provided mothers with early breastfeeding support and helped to facilitate antenatal appointments.
It’s incredible to think of how much I have learnt in such a short space of time, but the labour ward in particular is a fast-paced environment and there’s always an opportunity to see or do something, so you pick things up very quickly.
On the morning of my first day I was wracked with nerves, I had no idea what to expect. My mentor (the midwife I would be working with) was very supportive and made sure I knew where everything was and my way around.
The birth centre is a very relaxed, low-risk birth environment in which women are given the support and encouragement they need to have a normal birth with as little intervention as possible. Epidurals are not available in the birth centre, nor is continuous fetal monitoring.
Instead midwives encourage women to use alternative pain management tools such as birthing pools, mobilisation and back massage. The idea behind this is that providing an environment in which a woman’s body is able to produce plenty of oxytocin may help her to cope with the pain and her labour to progress well.
The midwives I worked with always took the time to walk me through exactly what was happening and what they were doing, and by the end of my two weeks there I was able to confidently examine women, care for them during labour, and deliver and check placentas.
My first shift on the labour ward was a bit of a shock to the system, as it is a completely different environment to the birth centre. There are generally a lot more women on the labour ward, many of them having high-risk deliveries.
Women here are still given the opportunity to mobilise and use water for pain relief, but are also able to use pethidine or epidurals (among other options) should they want to. The midwives are very busy and although they are equally supportive, they do not have the time to explain everything they are doing to their students.
They therefore expect that students will ask lots of questions and ask for help if they are not confident doing something. Lots of the women on the labour ward will be having continuous fetal monitoring via the use of a CTG, and one of the first things I learnt was how to read a CTG trace and what it meant.
I have spent a week there so far and every birth has been completely different from the last. I’ve had the opportunity to support women from lots of different backgrounds, which is really interesting.
One thing I have taken away from my time in practice is that every midwife works differently. All follow the same NMC guidelines, but each midwife will have their own way of doing things. For example, some midwives like to deliver babies straight on to the mother’s abdomen and dry it there, whereas others prefer to dry the baby on the bed first, cut the cord, then pass the baby to the mother.
I like to pass the baby on to its mother straight away and allow them to have immediate skin-to-skin contact while the baby is being dried, but it is interesting to see people using different techniques and to find out what their reasoning is.
Overall it has been a really positive experience so far, and I’m very much looking forward to going out into the community on my next placement and supporting women during the antenatal and postnatal periods.