Not all about cuddling babies

Sophie Spittle

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: BSc (Hons) Midwifery
Category: Nursing and midwifery

30 January 2015

Looking back to when I was halfway through my second year of Midwifery it felt like things were really getting real! The work was stepping up and getting a lot more demanding; I had just finished four weeks of gynaecology placement, four weeks of NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and then two weeks of non-midwifery placement.

This really threw me as I didn’t actually give any midwifery care for a few months. I really missed it but want to share my non-midwifery experiences as I feel these are just as important as the nice bits of midwifery we talk about.

Midwifery is NOT all about delivering and cuddling babies. I can’t emphasise that enough. There is so much more that needs to happen to women’s bodies before they even get pregnant and after the baby is born. It’s extremely important we are familiar with these transitions and changes.

The gynaecology placement was very interesting, I got to attend lots of different clinics and see women of all ages and backgrounds. I attended the urodynamic clinic which aims to help women with bladder problems, and diagnoses things such as incontinency and the increased urgency to urinate.

Another clinic I attended was the gynaecological oncology clinic; here I saw women who had been referred with suspected or diagnosed gynaecological cancers, such as ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of the uterus (womb). This is obviously a very difficult and distressing time for patients so it is very important to always gain consent from them when you are attending their appointment. They are entitled to decline your attendance and as students we must understand and accept this.

I also spent a week on the gynaecology ward where I looked after women undergoing a termination of pregnancy. While this might sound very sad and distressing, women in this country are entitled under UK law to an abortion, which can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy as long as certain criteria are met. The Abortion Act 1967 covers England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland. It states abortions must be carried out in a hospital or a specialist licensed clinic, and that two doctors must agree an abortion would cause less damage to a woman’s physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy. It is very important to provide dignified and non-judgemental care to women at all times, no matter what their personal circumstances are and what your personal views are. I felt privileged to be able to support women through one of the toughest times of their lives.

I spent the rest of my placement in an early pregnancy and gynaecology assessment unit. This is an emergency assessment department for pregnancy-related problems up to 12+6 weeks, such as pain and bleeding. It is also an emergency department for gynaecological problems such as cysts and pain which is non-pregnancy related. Here, I saw women going through miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies and pregnancy of unknown location as well as complications following gynaecological operations, fibroids and painful ovarian cysts. It was an assessment area so we only saw people for a short period of time which is why it is important to gain people’s trust early on so that care can be provided effectively.

The main things I learnt on this placement were about the anatomical changes the body goes through before and after pregnancy, and the importance of good communication and non-judgemental care. I feel this experience really helped me to progress in my career.

Stay tuned for my NICU experience!
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