Inspiring a new generation of Black and Asian midwives

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) | 0 comments

Silvia Collins, lecturer in midwifery and one of the midwives that features in the book (left) and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer in England (right). Professor Dunkley-Bent, a strong advocate for the project, provided the foreword for the book.

Article written by Samuel Hurley, Social Responsibility and Public Engagement Intern

Both Black and South Asian women have poorer outcomes than White women during pregnancy and birth, and face an increased risk of mortality for both mothers and infants.

Midwives are key professionals for optimum physical and psychological health outcomes for women and babies, and research has shown that midwives with similar ethnic heritage to a birthing mother can help improve the experience for both the mother and baby as they can help to meet their specific cultural needs. This is particularly relevant in Manchester, where 50% of women who birth are born outside the UK. Despite this, a low number of student midwives are from ethnic heritage backgrounds.

Motivated to address this disparity and to help promote midwifery as a career to people from ethnic minorities, The University of Manchester, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Loreto High School and Royal College of Midwives collaborated to develop the ‘With Women’, book project which shares the stories of practicing midwives who started their careers in Manchester.

Lead by Christine Furber (Project Lead and Reader in Midwifery at The University of Manchester’s Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work) and supported closely by Silvia Collins (Lecturer in Midwifery and one of the midwives that features in the book), staff from the University worked with Loreto High School in Chorlton, whose pupils directly contributed to the contents of the book. Pupils from the school and student midwives from the university conducted interviews with the midwives, moreover art students within the university produced the artwork, which was featured heavily in the book. The books were then published by a community printer in Didsbury.

Since the book was created, it has been shared in school visits across Greater Manchester to pupils of ethnic heritage. During these school visits, pupils are also provided with interactive games to further inspire their interest in midwifery as a career. Current school visits have been used to target students aged 13-14, to help guide them to choose subjects that will provide the foundations for a career in midwifery.

Silvia Collins (left) and Christine Furber, project lead and Reader in Midwifery at The University of Manchester (right) presenting the book at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) 2022 Conference.

The book is also currently utilised in open days at the University and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both prospective students and parents alike.

The contributors also hope the book will transform less positive opinions surrounding the profession, which may be held by parents and members of the public, in order to further increase enrolment into the profession.

In September 2022, midwives from the University ran a stand to promote midwifery to members of the public and local community groups at an event at Manchester Cathedral. This activity with the public and local community groups enabled people to consider the importance of people from  their own communities being midwives, and  to promote midwifery as a career for young people from ethnic heritage.

The book is now nationally recognised and is receiving national promotion. During a recent Royal College of Midwives (RCM) conference in October 2022, the RCM ordered 1000 copies of the book for nationwide distribution. The book is also available in pdf format for other institutions and members of the public to read and share.

Silvia has high hopes for the project: “We have evidence which indicates that bicultural midwives may improve confidence and trust in using the maternity services. We hope that by enabling more people from Black and South Asian communities to become midwives who work in our maternity hospitals that we can contribute to reducing the poor health outcomes that Black and South Asian women experience during childbearing in the UK.”

The books creators hope to continue sharing the book in school visits and University open days and engage in more conferences at the national level.

“In the next few years we are hoping to see an increase of students from ethnic minorities into university midwifery courses” – Christine Furber.

Access a digital copy of With Women

Listen to the Royal College of Midwives “Race Matters ” Podcast

To find out more about the project please contact Christine Furber or Silvia Collins.