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Back 27 June 2013

Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference

The Normal Labour and Birth Research Conference has been run on a regular basis from 2002 and since 2009 it has been held outside the UK on two occasions. In 2010 the venue was Vancouver and last year it was convened in China. 

The theme this year was “Getting it right first time: normal birth and the individual, family and society”. The conference provides an opportunity for researchers from a wide variety of backgrounds to present their work and discuss the implications of their findings for maternal and newborn outcomes. The research also impacts on midwifery education, health policy development and women’s experience of maternity care. Consequently, it brings together practice based midwives together with those involved in midwifery education and management. The main focus of the conference is physiological labour and birth but the papers presented cover the breath of maternity care provision. Each day there were two key note speakers and many concurrent sessions. Frequently, I wished that I could bi-locate! 

It was lovely to encounter midwives associated with ICM, many of whom I had met at other times and in other places. It was particularly good to meet Mindy Ebrahimoff from Israel. Israel is a member of the Central European Region (CER) and is, therefore, in my remit. Contact with the named Israeli delegate has been difficult for some time but now I will have the assistance of a very enthusiastic midwife.

The challenges for midwives are many wherever they work. The need for the White Ribbon Alliance to develop a strategy for Respectful Maternity Care highlights one of those challenges. Midwives have the ability to empower and support pregnant and birthing women. Unfortunately, for many women their experience of midwifery care is damaging rather than enhancing. And yet, it is not a simple issue. In many areas of the world women are treated in a disrespectful way. Example is a powerful reinforcer of behaviour. This is not to excuse disrespectful care but to underline the reality that most midwives are women and the problem is complex.

The next Normal Labour and Birth conference will be held in 2014 in Brazil. The theme is “Normal is natural: from research to action”. The aim is to underline the challenges facing the promotion of normal labour and birth, particularly in Brazil, with its epidemic rates of caesarean section. The conference was introduced by a large contingent of Brazilian midwives and obstetricians. They sang and danced and distributed posters and fridge magnets. Every time I open the fridge I will think of Brazil in October 2014 and wish I could be there. (Mary Higgins)
23rd June 2013

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