It is a sad but true fact, that in many NHS Trusts throughout England, maternity services are unable to offer women the continuity of care they need and deserve due to lack of staff and funding. I'm pretty sure I can speak for all Midwives when I say this hurts them as much as it hurts you, as they all know and understand the benefits of continuity of care, but for reasons beyond their control, are unable to offer it. I say this as a former Midwife, who loved nothing more than the picturesque ideal of 'Call the Midwife' where we could build a close relationship with the women in our care, and be with them at the births of their babies understanding their worries, needs and wants. What happens now, in most areas (although there are a lucky few areas who have amazing community teams who can actually offer the ideal) is that women see a different Midwife at each antenatal appointment, and yet another one (or more) at the birth of their baby.
This could very easily turn into an essay on how damaging that is for a Woman's experience of birth, but I am not here to slate our NHS - our Midwives, support staff and Gynae staff do amazing jobs under really shit conditions.
There is a problem for our women though, in that due to that lack of a close relationship or easy access to a Midwife, many women are sitting at home fretting about what they deem to be 'silly' questions about their pregnancies. There are dedicated phone lines in the maternity units, but women often feel daunted by calling them as the lines are busy, or they feel that their question is too small. This can really ruin a woman's experience of pregnancy, particularly for those who are anxious.
Something I have discovered recently though is the most amazing tool for women designed by Midwife Hannah Harvey. Her very clever app: 'Ask the Midwife' is designed to combat this - it is a tool for women to ask any question they need to about pregnancy to an actual Midwife and get a very quick and evidence based response. I had a chat with Hannah recently and this is what she said:
Can you describe the Ask the Midwife App to me Hannah?
"Ask The Midwife is the UK’s first health advice app designed and run be registered midwives for women and their families. You can download the app, ask any questions you have about pregnancy, birth and beyond and get a fast, professional and friendly response from a registered midwife."
Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to do this?
"I have been a Midwife for 5 years, and have always had an interest in digital health and how it can benefit women and families. A study showed that 84% of women use the internet for health advice in pregnancy, and most of the time this isn’t from credible sources. I wanted to create a solution that would mean everyone had access to professional advice online, to dissuade people from using Google and parenting forums as a source of information. In my local trust I developed Facebook groups and a Twitter page to improve maternity user experience in our NHS Trust, and won an innovation award for it in 2014. Following on from that, I wanted to be able to offer digital health services to users across the whole of the UK, and hopefully internationally at some point as well. This is how Ask The Midwife was born!"
Why do you think this App is needed right now?
"We live in a time now where everyone has smart phones, and people use social media and digital services like apps and web sites all the time. Digital Health is a brand new phenomenon, but one that is taking off at a drastic rate, because it is fast, easily accessible and credible. We have already been able to offer reassurance and guidance to so many expectant parents, and it is becoming evident how much a service like this is needed, by how quickly the app has taken off and how many people are using it."
Is any question too small or silly?
"No question is too small or silly for us. We actually get lots of questions that I have never been asked as a Midwife in clinical practice, which suggests to me that there are questions that women feel are too silly/small to ask face to face, so it is really great to see them being asked via the app. It means we are providing a service that is really needed, and people are able to get their anxieties and worries out to a professional and have the reassurance they need. If you think your question is silly, it isn’t. We will always be at the other end of the app waiting to answer any questions you have, bog or small."
How can people get the App, and what will they pay for it?
"The app is free to download on iOS. We are planning to launch Ask The Midwife on Android and on our website in 2017. Once you have downloaded, you get one free question and then after that you can pay anything from £1.99 for an Ask - up to £24.99 for one months unlimited use."
You can find out more at the Ask The Midwife website - and take advantage of the January sale, with unlimited access for £17!