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 Looking back and to the future: Maternity and Midwifery Hour

By Sue Macdonald, Curator Maternity and Midwifery festivals and Midwifery Hour

Maternity and Midwifery Hour is a regular weekly event, discussing all things maternity and midwifery! It is now moving into the eighth season. Sue Macdonald, as curator for both the Maternity and Midwifery festivals and Midwifery Hour, reflects on current times and the place of the Maternity and Midwifery Hour in supporting midwives.



 Looking back and to the future: Maternity and Midwifery Hour


The end of August is rapidly approaching, and I have been busy planning the next series of Maternity and Midwifery Hour in between curating the Maternity and Midwifery festivals. The next two events in Cardiff and Edinburgh promise to be lively and interesting, with sessions on well-being set for breaks and the usual competitions, as well as a wonderful opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the UK.

Happily, the festivals remain hybrid, with lively face to face events, but everything is recorded, so nothing is missed. That really is just as well, as there are always fantastic speakers with interesting presentations, and you can’t ever, as a participant, get to EVERYTHING!! Also, even if you can’t attend in person, as long as you have registered, you get the recording.


So to the Maternity and Midwifery Hour…

It seems amazing to me that we are now at the beginning of series 8 of a programme that was initially created to support students, midwives, maternity care support workers, and those with a love for maternity care, through the nightmare of COVID-19.  When I think back, those were such difficult times – before the vaccine and with great uncertainty about the impact on our NHS and in particular the maternity services.

While for some of us the memories of those days are fading, for others who suffered loss or faced such adversity, it is still all too present.  Even now, COVID-19 has yet to leave us and is still making people unwell, including those suffering with long covid and its long-term impacts.  In most services, there are still staff off sick with COVID-19, so their colleagues are working to fill gaps and make sure that women and babies are safely cared for.  And of course, this is at a time when the maternity services are under tremendous pressure, and there are still not enough midwives.   The RCM has estimated that the NHS was short of around 3000 midwives some time ago (RCM, 2019).  More recently the most recent RCM staff survey highlights a fall in the existing numbers of 353 WTE midwives in England (RCM, 2022).   This emphasises that urgent action is needed in recruiting new midwives, and more importantly, retaining and valuing the ones we have in the service. This problem is not just a UK one, as there is a global shortage of around 900,00 midwives (United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), 2021).

We are a precious resource.

But there are other major issues affecting us now:  the rising cost of living, the war in Ukraine, conflicts across other countries, and the impact on us as midwives when we see women, babies and families facing increasingly difficult circumstances.  These seem to be grim times, and we will all need to draw on our internal and shared resources to cope with the coming stresses and challenges.

It will be crucial to keep our personal positive core, and our joy in what we do – which is all too easy to lose in times of trouble.

So hopefully you will agree that the topics we are choosing continue to reflect contemporary issues – we are aiming to ensure that we provide some answers and tools for students and for midwives to use in their practice, but we are also keen to enable discussion and debate, a bit of challenge and some enjoyment too.  This is what you need, and also what you want, and for those of you preparing revalidation documents – crucial!

My colleagues have been asking what my favourite session has been over the last few months; I find it difficult to answer that one, other than to say – the one we are doing now!  I have been privileged to work with some fabulous practitioners, who have been so generous with their time, ideas, and passion.  I have loved the career spotlights, showing the very different pathway that midwives can take.  The session on women’s issues, like the abortion ruling in the US which may well have major global implications for women’s health and wellbeing is also very memorable.  As was the discussion about bullying –a recurring and knotty issue that we must address to ensure that as a service we are kind, caring and supportive, and which midwives and students want to be part of.   I have loved the education sessions – well I am a teacher after all! – and have found it so interesting to see midwife teachers sharing their expertise in other parts of the world. Practice innovations – include the neonatal unit pre-term neonatal cuddles; perinatal mental health, perinatal pelvic health, have been really exciting.  We have had some challenging sessions – provision of care to women and babies in prisons; to refugee and migrant women and engaging with supporters and different groups in that care, plus looking after our Cinderella postnatal care! From one of our speakers, I am not sure I can go on a holiday flight without thinking about being ‘cleared for take-off’- and continuity of care!  And then research hot off the press – the exploration of   women’s experience and perspectives after traumatic birth; personalised care; and power and hierarchy in the maternity services  and the  support and stress for  breastfeeding mothers during COVID-19.

Of course, the Maternity and Midwifery Hours rely on the audiences.  When we are in studio, we don’t see our audience but I know you are there and your warmth shines through… in the chat box and in the quality of the questions and comments, which has been fantastic – so a big thank you to you all.

And now to the next few months…  we will carry on with the great presenters, and a range of topics, and me and the team are  looking to YOU to get in touch if you have a topic that you think we should include, and that might include you wanting to come on as a presenter too.  As you will know there are also resources for each hour, and it would be good to know how useful this is to you.

We will also be adding some interesting little ‘magazine features’ so listen in to find out more…for special moments, top tips and favourite features!

In the meantime, I hope that you all got a real break over the summer, and will look forward to the next season with you,

Love Sue

Sue Macdonald,

Curator Maternity and Midwifery festivals and Midwifery Hour

August 2022


If you would like to present on the Maternity and Midwifery Hour, please email [email protected] to request more information.


Register for Series 8, Episode 1 on ‘Personal and professional challenges’ on Wednesday 14 September at 7pm for FREE – click here to register.


Matflix  (2022) and Maternity and Midwifery Hour:

Royal College of Midwives (RCM) (2019)  England short of almost 2500 midwives, new birth figures confirm RCM

Royal College of Midwives (RCM)  (2022) Demystifying the pay negotiations   RCM

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). World Health Organisation  (WHO) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM)    (2021) State of the World’s Midwifery Report (SOWMY) (2021)  UNFPA,WHO and ICM [accessed 20.05.2021]