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Positive Birth Conference 2017: Service User Experience





Sheena Byrom OBE, Freelance Midwifery Consultant.

Biography: Sheena Byrom is a practising midwife, and worked within the NHS for more than 35 years. Sheena was one of the UK’s first consultant midwives, and as a head of midwifery successfully helped to lead the development of three birth centres in East Lancashire. As well as being an international speaker, Sheena provides consultancy services to both NHS Trusts and to organisations globally; helping and supporting them to develop midwifery lead services. Sheena is involved in several charities related to midwifery, and is one of the project leads of the Midwifery Unit Network, which supports midwifery led units (birth centres) both online, and face-to-face. Sheena is working on a new initiative with Anna Byrom, her midwife daughter, to support midwifery in the UK, and around the world.

Sheena’s passion to continue centres on promoting normal physiological childbirth, and a positive childbirth experience for all women. The global onslaught of medical technology as a means to improve safety continues to influence childbearing women’s physiology and autonomy, and her work to reverse the trend is ongoing.

Sheena’s midwifery memoirs, Catching Babies, is a Sunday Times bestseller, and her seminal book, The Roar Behind the Silence: why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care jointly edited with Soo Downe, is being used as a resource to improve maternity care throughout the world.  Sheena and Soo are currently editing a second book, ‘Squaring the Circle: researching normal childbirth in a technological world’, which they hope will be published in 2017.

Sheena was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to midwifery, and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Midwives in 2015. In 2016, Sheena received an Honorary Doctorate from Bournemouth University. Her personal and midwifery related website is

About the speakers

Professor Susan Ayers, Professor of Maternal and Child Health, City, University of London

Presentation: Birth trauma: Risk and resilience

The transition to parenthood is a time of great change and adjustment which for some new parents can exacerbate existing mental health problems or lead to the development of new mental health problems. The events of birth can be traumatic for some women and men. Reviews and meta-analyses suggest 4% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth and this increases to 19% in high risk groups (Dikmen-Yildez et al., 2017). However, the majority of women who experience a difficult or traumatic birth do not develop PTSD. It is therefore important to consider both risk and resilience in order to inform maternity care, prevention and treatment.

This talk outlines the main risk factors for traumatic birth and PTSD, as well as evidence on what makes women more vulnerable to PTSD. However, I will also examine what makes women resilient during birth, with a particular focus on factors associated with posttraumatic growth after birth. The implications of this research for maternity care and helping women have positive births will be considered.

Biography: Susan is a psychologist specialising in perinatal mental health. She joined City University in 2012 and leads the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research. Susan is a chartered health psychologist and cognitive behaviour therapist. Her research examines women's mental health during pregnancy and after birth, with a particular focus on anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Since obtaining her PhD from the University of London, Susan has worked at St. George's Hospital Medical School (London) and Brighton and Sussex Medical School (Sussex). Susan is lead author of Psychology for Medicine (2011) and editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine (2007). She has given numerous invited lectures and workshops and was awarded the Annual Lecturer Prize by the Society of Reproductive and Infant Psychology in 2012.

Milli Hill, Positive Birth Movement

Presentation: The Stories we Need to Hear

Many women crave to hear positive birth stories in their pregnancy in a world that is often filled with birth horror stories. I’d like to talk about the various reactions to the Positive Birth Movement – and to my book The Positive Birth Book – and how hearing these kind of positive messages affects both their expectations and experiences of labour and birth.  I’ll look, too, at the negative response that the sharing of positive stories can sometimes be met with, in particular by the media. I’ll also raise the issue of the flip side of this – and how ‘negative’ or ‘critical’ feedback from service users can be difficult for midwives and health care professionals to hear. There are no easy answers to these issues but I will invite participants to consider how they are affected by both positive and negative birth stories and how we might address these responses in ourselves and others, for the greater good.

Biography: Milli Hill is a freelance writer, feminist, former dramatherapist, trainee doula and self-professed birth junkie. She is the founder of the Positive Birth Movement and her book, The Positive Birth Book: A New Approach to Pregnancy, Birth and the Early Weeks, was published in March. Milli lives in Somerset UK with her partner and three small children.

Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

Presentation: Better Births – the user experience

A brief outline of user views highlighting the need for greater personalisation and continuity of carer. Discussion of progress against these outcomes and of how more might be achieved.

Biography: Professor Warwick is closely involved in the development of maternity policy, and has recently been part of a  major review of maternity services in England. Cathy works with the  Secretary of State for Health to try to influence policy on behalf of women, forging collaborative relationships with organisations with common interests including other medical Royal colleges.

Professor Warwick holds honorary professorships at King’s College London and Hong Kong University and received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Dundee and  Kingston and St George’s University London. She has led midwifery study tours to several countries in 2016 and 2017.

Professor Warwick gained a nursing degree in 1975 and completed the one year midwifery course in 1976, and worked as a midwife across a variety of clinical settings in hospitals and in the community. She has held a number of senior posts in midwifery education and in the NHS. She has an MSc in Social Policy, an Advanced Diploma in Midwifery (ADM) and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education of Adults.

She has sat on many national maternity policy committees, and been a member of the Nursing and Midwifery Council and was Chair of the Midwifery Committee at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and Chair of the maternity working group contributing to the Darzi report, Healthcare for London.

She has also written and published widely on midwifery issues and lectures and speaks nationally and internationally.

Dr Ellinor Olander, Senior Lecturer, City, University of London

Presentation: Women’s views of continuity of care as provided by midwives and health visitors

Continuity of carer, multi-professional working and working across boundaries has all been identified as important aspects of care in the National Maternity Review: Better Births (2016). This presentation will cover women’s views on some of these aspects as they relate to continuity of care as provided by midwives and health visitors. Specifically, findings will be presented from a large interview study with 29 recent mothers who shared their experiences regarding continuity of information and relationships, staff as well as across pregnancies.

Biography: Dr Ellinor Olander is a Senior Lecturer in Maternal and Child Health in the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research at City, University of London. Ellinor completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology in Australia, before she moved to England to do her MSc (Loughborough University, 2006) and PhD (University of Birmingham, 2010). Her area of research includes issues related to maternal obesity and weight management in pregnancy as well as care provided by midwives and health visitors.

Ellinor co-leads the Collaborating in Pregnancy and Early Years (COPE) project which aims to support healthcare professionals to work collaboratively when caring for women and their families during and after pregnancy.

Octavia Wiseman BA, BSc, MRes, RM,  REACH

Presentation: How does group antenatal care work for women who are seen as 'at risk' of poorer experience and outcomes in pregnancy? Early findings from a feasibility study of Pregnancy Circles

Group antenatal care (gANC) has been proposed as an alternative to standard appointments, integrating clinical care with information-sharing and opportunities for peer support with the aim of normalising pregnancy and increasing women’s sense of agency.  It has been successfully implemented in America, Australia, Sweden and Iran and there is evidence that it can improve women’s experiences and safety outcomes, such as pre-term birth and low birthweight (Ickovics et al 2007, Jafari et al 2010).  In the UK, women classified as socially disadvantaged and those from ethnic minorities (‘at risk’ populations) have reported negative experiences accessing antenatal care and this has been associated with poor outcomes.

Purpose/objective: We report on the early findings of the REACH Pregnancy Programme’s feasibility study of a bespoke model of gANC (‘Pregnancy Circles’) tailored to an area of high socio-economic, linguistic and ethnic diversity.  The aim was to explore the model’s acceptability to a diverse population of women within an NHS setting.

Biography: Octavia qualified as a midwife in 2011 after a career in publishing and four children. She works part-time as a community midwife and antenatal educator and RCM Learning Rep at King’s College Hospital. She did a Masters in Clinical Research at King’s College London (NIHR Fellow) in 2015 and is now a part-time Research Assistant on the REACH Pregnancy Programme based at City, University of London and the University of East London where she works on the Pregnancy Circles study.

Presented by the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research


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When & where

9.30am - 4.00pmThursday 20th July 2017

B200 University Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom

Contact Details

City Events Team

+44 (0)20 7040 8037

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