Eleanor completed a mindfulness course with a view to teaching mindfulness as a way to improve perinatal mental health
My award enabled me to complete a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, and to attend the Oxford Mindfulness Centre's Summer School.
Why would a midwife be interested in mindfulness? There’s good evidence that formal mindfulness courses are great at preventing depression in people who’ve been depressed before, and there’s some early evidence that it’s beneficial in other areas of mental health too. Pregnancy and the postnatal period are times when many women experience new or recurring mental health problems. It’s also a time when women are often interested in proactively improving their health, but at the moment they don’t always get the support they need in doing so.
Researchers are starting to look at whether mindfulness classes during pregnancy might help. Then there’s the idea that mindfulness might be useful in the workplace as well, to promote emotional self-awareness and help cope with stress – something that might be beneficial in any caring profession like midwifery.
One of my long-term goals is to become a specialist mental health midwife, and I think that teaching mindfulness could fit well into that role.
Since the research in this area is still relatively new, there may also be opportunities to study the outcomes of such courses. One thing I've learnt from the MBSR course, and from the Summer School, is that I really need to consolidate my own mindfulness practice before going anywhere down that route. Which is handy, because as a newly-qualified midwife I also need to concentrate on my core midwifery practice before any kind of specialisation. So some of the fruits of this award won't be seen straight away. However, the MBSR course has also helped me to develop skills that I use every day in midwifery.
Mindfulness helps keep me rooted in compassion and calmness when working with someone in distress, fear or pain. It has strengthened the core of my empathy, making it easy for the woman to always be the focus of my care
That enables me to truly be 'with woman' rather than 'with protocol' or even 'with CTG'. As an additional coping mechanism, mindfulness also helps me to never judge or blame mums as a way of coping with emotionally challenging situations.
I'd like to thank the Iolanthe Trust for giving me these opportunities. What I've learned has made me a better midwife, and hopefully, in the future, it'll make me a better mental health midwife.