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The Midwives: The pressures and emotions of being new

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Jess Shaw-Roberts Jess Shaw-Roberts | 09:30 UK time, Tuesday, 7 August 2012

I'm less nervous now delivering babies than when I was newly qualified in BBC Two's documentary series The Midwives.

I've found that my confidence has built really quickly with the job.

I feel honoured to be the only healthcare professional in the delivery room responsible for caring for the mother and her newborn child.

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New midwife Jess attends her first Caesarean section

It's an empowering, intimate moment looking after women in their most vulnerable time.

Being filmed over six months gave me a real incentive to show the viewers a true insight into the pressures and emotions of being new in the role.

I felt the camera didn't get in the way of my ability to perform as a midwife - actually the experience of being filmed sharing that moment with new parents was fulfilling.

Similarly to Chloe, the first year student you'll see in episode two, I asked a lot of questions, especially during my first few weeks working on the antenatal ward.

This, with the support of the midwives helped me to grow in confidence.

I can relate closely to Chloe because for both of us knowledge of the job grows with you.

The questions you ask at the beginning are different to the questions you ask towards the end of your training and when you've just qualified.

You tend to just double check when newly qualified and even if it's something I already knew I was never too scared to ask.

Being a student has its ups and downs. You'll see in the series that Aurelie is struggling through her year of training, which I can personally relate to.

It's possible that part of the challenge for her was what we call the 'second year blues' although some student midwives can experience this at any time.

Aurelie Santu, Jess Shaw-Roberts and Chloe Badham

Aurelie Santu, Jess Shaw-Roberts and Chloe Badham

It is a period during your training where you hit a brick wall and where completing your training feels like an impossible task.

I had a high dropout rate in my group of student midwives. Forty of us started in September 2008 and only 26 graduated in December 2011.

The midwifery course is extremely tough: you practice for 37.5 hours a week, 45 weeks of the year for three years.

On top of the full-time lectures and placement you have what feels like a never-ending amount of academic essays, reflections and written skills to complete!

During my second year I experienced the blues when I was not enjoying one area of practice along with writing an essay that I was struggling with.

I nearly quit. It would have been the worst mistake of my life because looking back it was one glitch and I hit many smaller ones on the way.

Becoming a midwife was the best thing I have ever done.

I encourage anyone who is thinking about becoming a midwife to be entirely sure that you are ready to commit, and to be a student but not live like a student - and that you are up for the challenge.

It's a great challenge to beat and overcome! Anyone who is in their training: stick to it. It's worth it.

Jess Shaw-Roberts is a midwife on The Midwives.

The Midwives continues on Tuesday, 7 August at 9pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks Jess! I watched episode 2 the other night. I'm starting Midwifery training at the end of Sept. You've given me a real boost of confidence and excitement in the last fews weeks leading up to Uni. I'm soo excited for my new career, and wish you all the best in yours!

  • Comment number 2.

    Midwives have a very responsible position. It's a beautiful job because you can see newborn life. But sometimes it's very, very hard. More respect for that women and men!

  • Comment number 3.

    Jess, Interested to know your opinions on how helpful it is to be showing birth to the women of this country in such a high risk setting? Surely we have enough of this in films and soap operas? Would it not be better to be showing birth in the positive and empowering way that it actually can be given women have the right ante-natal education and support during labour?

    We all know that labouring on our backs is possibly the worse thing you can do yet this is how every women has delivered their baby on the series so far... We also know that disturbing the Oxytocin flow between Mum and baby is highly detrimental to bonding and feeding yet all the cords are cut straight away and the babies are rubbed off and wrapped up with minimal sign of decent skin to skin time...

    We have learnt so much so why are we still presenting birth in the way it is being shown on The Midwives?

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with Jenn. I feel so sad that after OBEM we have another programme showing a high risk setting for birth. Where is the evidence to date that St Mary's have tried to implement measures such as the 10 point list by the RCM
    to increase the normal birth rate. Why are midwives telling women to hold their breath and push which brings risks to mother and baby? So sad that the BBC did not see fit to show woman centred, intimate care with privacy and dignity .

  • Comment number 5.

    I think the series has been an accurate portrayal of an extremely busy, pressurised tertiary unit. In reply to the two previous comments, as St Mary's is a tertiary unit, with many complex maternal and fetal problems, the population shown is clearly going to be a high risk population. If you want to see examples of 'normal' birth then One Born and other programmes do this. I think it is very useful and informative for mothers to see the high risk aspect of birth- many end up in this situation and are totally unprepared, or worse, feel extreme failure as they are not able to have the 'normal' experience of birth.
    Why should women not be given all information available? Surely this is what the NHS should be doing for women- empowering and informing people?

    I think most of the staff at St Mary's would be offended at the suggestion from 'Shirley' that the care is not women centered, intimate or with privacy and dignity maintained. They are delivering exactly that, as midwives such as Anne, featured on the first program show perfectly.

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with Jenn and Shirley.

    In my experience, midwives seem to have their own agenda for the birth of your child.

    You stand up, lie down, have intimate exams and have pain relief on their terms.

    You are in their "care" and if you don't do as you are told then they will make you suffer. An example of this is when you are having a contraction and the midwife decides to check your "progress" with her hand up inside you as far as it will go. You are screaming and shouting at her to get her hand out and she will say just a "few more seconds". You plead for an epidural and you are told you can manage without one.

    I think we should see more on what midwives are REALLY like in a hospital setting.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think that the series is showing quite accurately what happens within the hospital environment and it is a shame that this way of practice is still seen as acceptable because a woman is "high risk". No matter what a persons risk factor there is no evidence to suggest that laying flat out on their back, immobile and strapped to a monitor for hours on end is beneficial. Woman should be supported to have an active labour and normal vaginal birth despite their risk factors there are ways to work around things and adapt to meet the needs of the woman. It was sad to see the woman from episode 2 who ended up with a section at 9cm due to the baby's position. I understand that a full case history wasn't presented but part of me has to question whether the outcome would have been the same had the lady been mobile or in all fours?

    Delayed cord clamping and skin to skin in theatre are two very easy ways to help bring some normality to parents experiences and yet not even this has been shown to be done. I don't see how that can be blamed on the unit being busy or the woman being high risk.

    As midwives we should be looking to maintain woman centred care in any environment despite the risk factors or the staffing level. It falls to individual practitioners to make small changes to their practice that will lead to big changes in the long run. Woman do not need to hold their breath and "act like they are constipated" to have a baby. Keep birth normal!

  • Comment number 8.

    I hope a midwife will help me to answer this question. In the 3rd programme in the series a midwife was shown consenting a woman for home birth. She went through a tick list of complications which could occur during birth, including fetal hypoxia, placental abruption etc. Whilst talking through these the midwife did not explain the consequences of any of these complications; fetal hypoxia- your baby may have irreversible brain damage, or even die; placental abruption- your baby may have fetal hypoxia, you may bleed to death.
    Is it common practice to just mention these items in the tick list, or do midwives actually explain the complications? In short- do they actually take informed consent?
    I am sure that the women who want home births will never change their minds based on the consent process, but surely they deserve all the information?

  • Comment number 9.

    Please could someone answer me why nearly all women are shown to lie FLAT ON THEIR BACKS when giving birth???

  • Comment number 10.

    25 years ago I opted for a managed Home Birth, despite warnings and advice about how dangerous it would be, and that I was risking both my own and my babies health and well-being. I didn't want drugs, needless interventions, to be cut, to be operated on, to lie down and be immobile, to have my babies cord cut before it stopped pulsating naturally, to have the placenta pulled out when it was not ready, to have drugs administered to get the placenta out, to have the protective white covering on the baby rubbed off or even have the baby bathed straight after birth, to have the baby removed and taken away from me at the moment of birth, to be man-handled when in moments of pain and so on and so on... What I got was a beautiful and loving experience with midwives who had worked in the jungle, without any modern medical aids, and who learnt life-saving midwifery skills not often used anymore. My perineum was protected, I ate food, I walked about, I had a bath/shower, and got into the birthing position that was right for me, just moments before birth was emminent - on all fours. It was fabulous, just fabulous. Pain of birth nowhere near as painful as my Crohns, which, along with kidney failure and liver problems, high BP, pre-eclampsia etc.. put me at high risk for my second birth 8 yers later. I fought hard to keep a second home birth...had to book in at 3 hospitals and sign disclaimers etc... but it was perfect...again. It distresses me that so little has changed in hospitals after 25 years! Read 'Active Birth' wonderful book, just a shame its message is still now out there in this, the 21st century. I cry as I watch the 4th episode of midwives, about how wrong things still are.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have just watched the first episode.

    Why were there so many men in scrubs hanging around in the background when one of the ladies was having a forceps delivery?

    They appeared to just watch the birth and then gawp at the poor lady getting her stitches.

    Did they have her permission to be there?

    What happened to her dignity and modesty?

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I do not understand how this program can be critisied,i was so worried when i went into st marys and was actually filmed in which they do ask permission to be there and the midwives were so reassuring and were fantastic,I have 3 children and i could not complain with the care and that for my daughter which i recieved at the hospital and the program is to show that there are all differant stresses in labour and the job they are doing is amazing so i say thank you so much for bringing my little girl in to the world, Chloe who was the training midwive was as good as anyone.Thank you

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. keep it up.......

  • Comment number 16.

    Several people have commented on how shameful it is for women to being giving births in beds/on their backs, but what they have not taken into account, is that there are many women who know the evidence, who may have intentions to labour in a certain manner, but whom, when it comes down to it, CHOOSE to labour in a bed, on their backs.

    As much as midwives can support and encourage women, they cannot FORCE a woman to assume a position if they ultimately don't want to.

    As a side note - Minatnon, if you have concerns regarding the care you received by your midwives, you can arrange to be debriefed, and have someone go through your notes with you and explain everything.

  • Comment number 17.


    I have had the debrief thank you. Everything was explained to me. Apparently, I had an unrealistic view of childbirth. I had expected to work with the midwives, to accept their help and experience - to work as a team to give birth to my baby. I was so naive. I arrived at hospital, really excited and looking forward to my son's birth. From the moment I stepped over the threshold, I was subjected to, what I can only describe as, torture by the two midwives who took "care" of me. I divorced my husband because he helped them hold me down whilst I was examined. He also helped them to keep me still whilst I had stitches after an episiotomy that I didn't want. I have had years of counselling. I think about the birth everyday.


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