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Stepping up to Public Health

Lucy November
10 May, 2017

Stepping up to Public Health

As part of the ‘Stepping up to Public Health’ project, I have developed the RCM public health repositories: one for women and one for midwives and MSWs.

For women, this was a response to their perception that, although they prefer online resources to printed leaflets, the internet can be a stressful place abounding with horror stories and scare-mongering chat rooms.  For midwives, the sheer quantity of public health information we may need to discuss with women is mind-bending, and bringing it together into a single site seemed like a straightforward strategy.  In this regular public health blog, I will highlight how the repository can enrich our midwifery practice and the experience of women in our care.

I was recently having my well-earned cuppa and brownie after a full-on singing time at the bumps and babes group that I run in a hall in Dagenham.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Caleb, a chunky two-year-old, launch himself down the slide and land on baby twins Ella and Zak.  In the chaos which followed, Caleb’s mum Jade, 24 weeks pregnant, hauled herself off the chair and shuffled towards the pile of children in obvious pain.  Jade had SPD. She was using crutches at the weekend when her husband was around to help, and did her best to cope with her energetic toddler all week.  Life was very tough and Jade was struggling to cope.

Several of the women at the group had had SPD.  One good friend spent her last trimester and first three months of her son’s life in a wheelchair.  Another was housebound for several weeks.  What had my response been to these friends?  I had made empathetic noises, muttered something about relaxin, and sympathised when the only solution offered by the hospital was a pelvic support and pain killers.

So here I was again, faced with another desperate, tearful friend.  But this time it was different.  I had been reviewing the antenatal section of the repository and had come across the Pelvic Partnership website and the How can we improve care for women with Pelvic Girdle Pain leaflet.  The research section summarises the significant body of research supporting manual therapy for SPD, and explains how it works and why it is safe.  I brought up the repository on Jade’s phone, showed her the leaflet, and suggested she read it and get back to me.  She was keen to try osteopathy, so a couple of days later I found myself as her chaperone as she had osteopathy from an obstetrically trained practitioner. The first session relieved the worst of her symptoms and after three sessions she was almost pain-free and moving easily.  I was delighted for her but horrified at the same time when I thought of other friends and women I’d cared for, for whom platitudes had been my only solution. 

The repository has several hundred entries.  Meeting women’s support and information cannot possibly be about us as midwives or MSWs regurgitating information which we, by some superpower, have memorised.  Meeting these needs is done by making women equal partners in their care – knowing where to direct them and supporting them to make decisions based on their unique experience and perspective. 

 

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