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Wirral University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Honouring midwives, guardians of birth and maternal health (International Day of the Midwife 2024)

As International Day of the Midwife on 5th May approaches, and with celebrity interest in the career hitting the headlines recently, Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH) is preparing to celebrate the day by spotlighting the roles of some of their students and staff in what is widely recognised as the world’s oldest profession, midwifery.

Jools Oliver, mother of five and wife of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, has shared her extraordinary news that she is currently retraining to become a midwife. At the age of 49, she is turning model to midwife in an unusual career pivot and demonstrating to others that it’s never too late to follow your dream.

Going through a similar life transition on the Wirral, at age 42, is student midwife and mother of six Vicky Wright. She is in the second year of a BSc (Hons) in Midwifery with Liverpool John Moores University, and is currently on a 10 week placement with the Maternity Ward at WUTH’s Women and Children’s Hospital.

She said: “Being a midwife is a dream I’ve had all my adult life but one I truly never thought I’d realise.”

With a family comprising husband, two dogs and six children ranging from age 9 to 22, balancing the demands of her studies with her role as mum has needed a lot of organisational skills. “Everyone has to chip in around the house”, she said. “But it works. My family are really supportive because they all know how much I want to qualify as a midwife.”

Before embarking on her degree, she spent 10 years as full-time carer for her mum who was suffering with Alzheimer’s dementia.

“Sometimes I can’t quite believe that I’m actually doing the thing that seemed like a pipe dream just a short time ago. But I do think that my life skills and experiences of looking after others have helped me to get here. I’ve had tremendous mentoring and support from Sarah Weston, Practice Development Midwife, as well as the whole team here at WUTH, and my confidence has grown enormously. I feel like I’m older and wiser. I would really encourage others who are contemplating midwifery to take the leap. It’s the most rewarding career.”

TV presenter Emma Willis has also done much to help the public understand the invaluable role of midwives with her television project Delivering Babies. In this series she has spent time at three hospitals, undertaking training as a Maternity Support Worker, and receiving training from NHS midwifery professionals.

WUTH are also shedding a light on the role of midwives in training others to ensure the hospital is delivering the safest care to mums and babies during pregnancy and birth. Providing training and support for professionals throughout their career is a high priority.

As a fetal surveillance lead midwife, Karen Cullen facilitates teaching for both midwives and doctors in monitoring the baby’s journey through labour and delivery, something she has been doing at WUTH since 2020. “The role came about from an NHS England initiative and now every hospital has to have a fetal surveillance midwife”, she said. “It’s called Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle, and it ensures we are monitoring the wellbeing of all our babies and identifying those who are at higher risk throughout the pregnancy and during labour. That might include expectant mums who have a medical condition or where there are concerns around babies whose movements have changed.”

The hospital has a 24-hour triage line so that anyone who has noticed changes in their unborn baby’s movements can phone and speak to a midwife to get advice.

Karen added: “We use a cardiotocograph (CTG) as one way to monitor baby’s heartrate. At WUTH we have central surveillance installed and all of the CTGs on our labour wards are available electronically so we have helicopter view of all the monitoring data. It helps us make sure all our babies are being looked after to the highest standard. From the patterns we see on CTG tracing, midwives and doctors can understand how baby is coping with labour. If baby is becoming too stressed, we can help, for example by reducing the number of contractions or considering other modes of birth where appropriate.”

Also working in maternity services at WUTH is midwife Aimi Kerrigan who is expecting a baby of her own in September. “I fell in love with midwifery when my best friend asked me to go with her to a university talk on it. Up till then, all I knew about the profession was what I’d seen on TV. I’ve since found out that there is so much more to midwifery than delivering a baby.”

She added: “After I got my Midwifery Degree, in 2014 I started working at WUTH, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve found where I’m supposed to be. The staff community here is like a family. We all work together so well because we want to make sure the women who come to us for their birth have the best possible experience. Now I’m pregnant with my second baby and I will be having the birth here, just like with my first.”