In December 2021 we (Rebecca and Bethany of the Bangor Student Midwifery Society) applied to our Students’ Union’s Dragon’s Den for funding to provide a Biomechanics for Birth course for student midwives.
We pitched our application in front of the Dragon’s Den panel, starting with details on the prevalence and consequences of birth trauma that is sadly experienced by many women within the UK.
Birth trauma directly impacts maternal mental health, with the most recent MBRRACE-UK (2021) report at the time stating that suicide remained the leading cause of maternal death in the first year after giving birth. Midwives support women to have the best birth experience possible, and should ensure women leave their care intact, whole, and unharmed, ready for the next part of the journey into motherhood.
So, we asked ourselves what part we could play in reducing birth trauma and improving women’s experiences in the short and long term future. We wanted to take action and use preventative measures to reduce the incidence of birth trauma within maternity practice.
We began researching into techniques that reduce intervention and increase the likelihood of physiological birth and found Biomechanics for Birth.
Biomechanics for Birth is an educational course founded by Molly O’Brien, which examines the biomechanics of the pelvis through labour and the physiology of birth, focusing on optimal positioning and techniques to assist the progress of the baby through the birth canal. Anecdotal evidence showed that these techniques reduce the need for medical intervention, and caesarean sections were being successfully avoided by utilising the Biomechanics for Birth techniques – so why weren’t we doing them in practice?
We pitched our idea for funding to provide the Biomechanics for Birth course for as many student midwives as possible, believing strongly that investing in our education now will make us better practising midwives and allow us to provide the best possible standard of care for women. We wanted students to feel confident in their ability to optimise the birth process and conveyed our passion for helping women to have positive birth experiences.
Gaining the skills and knowledge provided on the Biomechanics for Birth course could one day mean the difference between a woman having emergent major abdominal surgery, or a calm, peaceful birth, free from trauma. We recognised that the course could change the future of midwifery care, benefitting women, babies, families, communities, students, midwives, doctors, and the whole multidisciplinary team involved in welcoming babies into the world.
To finish our pitch we used the analogy: you wouldn’t send a plumber to fix a leaky pipe without a spanner in hand, so please don’t send us into the maternity unit without Biomechanics for Birth!
Thankfully our pitch was successful, and we gained enough funding to offer 20 student midwives access to an online Biomechanics for Birth course. We joined this virtual course in pairs (or with a willing family member participant!) and found the course incredibly insightful into labour dystocia and had lots of fun practicing the positions and ultimately learning techniques to improve experiences for women and their families.
The nature and context of midwifery practice is ever changing, and midwives must update and enhance their knowledge and skills. Undertaking the Biomechanics for Birth Course demonstrated to us its potential to improve staff confidence and well-being, reduce adverse outcomes, reduce the likelihood of birth trauma, improve bonding and attachment, increase breastfeeding rates, reduce the need for referrals within the multidisciplinary team such as mental health and physiotherapy – and many more!
But remaining central to our commitment and passion are the safety and experiences of the mothers and babies within our care. We wanted to ensure that knowledge and expertise in combatting labour dystocia and supporting physiological birth became standard practice, and therefore applied to the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust for funding to enable us to run another Biomechanics for Birth Course for student midwives at Bangor University to set the standard within our cohorts to enable them to pass on skills and knowledge to their future students so that physiological birth can be more attainable for women accessing midwifery services in the long term.
Winning the Student Midwife award allowed us to run an in-person Biomechanics for Birth course for over 30 student midwives in January 2023. The event was a huge success (despite teething problems we experienced with the buildings heating)!
Molly proceeded to actively engage students whilst the problem was sorted. We shared a pizza lunch together to socialise and allow extended opportunities for discussion which was thoroughly enjoyed by all!
Then Molly had students actively demonstrating and practicing the Biomechanics for Birth techniques with each other which provided practical insight into how the techniques can combat labour dystocia.
Students gave feedback following the course and spoke with affection regarding how much they enjoyed the course, how beneficial the theory and practical elements were, and how they felt empowered to offer the skills and techniques to women within their care.
Our vision to change the narrative around labour dystocia and birth trauma has been translated into real life practice. We are very grateful to our Students’ Union, the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust, Molly O’Brien, and all our dedicated student midwives for helping us achieve our goal!