My steps into maternity research

By Jayne Wagstaff, research midwife Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellow RCM UK Research Safety Wellbeing Of Women Women

Jayne Wagstaff, research midwife at Leads Teaching Hospital Trust, shares how they got into midwifery research and the opportunities that awaited.

I soon realised when I started my research delivery role how inspiring it is to help women participate in clinical studies and contribute towards gathering evidence to inform improvements in care. It’s also been rewarding to learn more about the clinical topics within national maternity studies and I really had no idea of the opportunities that would unfold along the way in maternity research and lead me towards being awarded a NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical Fellowship

I noticed when talking to women about research how many shared an enthusiasm to take part and help improve care for others. Participating in a clinical trial sometimes takes women along a path which is quite different to their usual care.

For example women in the Stoppit2 study agreed to have a cervical pessary inserted during pregnancy to help understand whether this could reduce the chance of preterm delivery in twins. Women in the Phoenix study agreed to an early induction of labour to help determine the ideal timing of delivery for women with pre-eclampsia.

These examples highlight the lengths women will go to in order help answer clinical questions and encouraged me to think more widely about how my role in research could develop further.

Along with noticing how positively women responded to being involved in research, it was also rewarding to help with some of the practical aspects that make clinical trials possible. This often includes helping women decide whether taking part is right for them and linking with various clinical teams to help embed studies alongside routine care.

As my experience in research delivery continued, I was fascinated to learn more about the role of the academic teams leading large clinical trials and enjoyed being a ‘link’ between women in the clinical setting and the university teams.

Completing a PGDip in health research opened my eyes to the wider aspects of clinical research. I learned for example how clinical studies evolve to address gaps in evidence and the theories underpinning research design and analysis.

Although my academic knowledge around health research had grown, I felt uncertain of the opportunities which could help me take the next step and utilise these skills in practice. Within local networks I heard about a team of researchers who were exploring how midwives help women to make personal decisions about antenatal screening tests. I was delighted to join the team and they supported my successful application for an Entry-level scholarship funded by Wellbeing of Women, in collaboration with the RCM and the Burdett Trust

This rewarding experience helped me to develop a range of skills, including designing and managing the study within a busy clinical setting, data analysis and handling data security. The results revealed new insights into how women make screening decisions, and I’m looking forward to seeing the paper published later this year.

I appreciate all of the opportunities that have opened up for me as a result of the scholarship, it has certainly supported my next steps along the research path where I’m currently exploring midwives’ perspectives on personalised care, supported by experts in maternal health research. 

I’d encourage everyone to explore getting involved with research - the RCM research hub is a brilliant resource to learn more. Or connect with others with the same research interests via its maternity research map