or search evidence on Discover Portal

Dissemination Centre

Reflections from delegates at the launch of Better Beginnings

Date: 13 March 2017

Category: Pregnancy

Table discussion at Better Beginnings launch

Bring together a large group of experienced, committed midwives and midwifery managers and a great energy fills the room. At the launch of our new themed review Better Beginnings, delegates had lively discussions, prompted by presentations from leading academics, making sense of the latest research.

The scene was set by Louise Silverton, Director of Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, Matthew Jolly, the National Clinical Director for Maternity and Women’s Health and Genevieve Porritt, a new mother, accompanied by her son Dylan.

Of the nine collections of research evidence covered in the review, three key evidence areas were the focus of the afternoon: stopping smoking in pregnancy, healthy diet and weight, and the issues in addressing inequalities in pregnancy.

After each presentation, the room buzzed with delegates discussing the evidence and what it means for their practice, mulling over ideas for developing services and identifying future research questions.

New ideas and questions to emerge included the following:

On smoking cessation

  • The need for health behaviours which become so important before and during pregnancy to be better taught and supported in schools. This would help young people to develop an understanding of their health needs before the pressure of a pregnancy changes things.
  • The importance of taking a family-centred approach to the health needs of women planning or experiencing pregnancy. Delegates felt strongly that support to stop smoking, lose weight or eat healthily are much more likely to succeed when a woman’s partner and extended family are drawn into the behaviour change.
  • The need for more research on sustaining quit rates immediately after the birth and beyond.
  • The need for research into cultural, family and social influences that determine women’s likelihood of stopping smoking, eating healthily, establishing breastfeeding, etc.

On healthy diet and weight

  • The importance of clear guidelines and midwife support for women about normal limits on weight gain, the myth of ‘eating for two’ and the long-term benefits of healthy eating, both for them and their child(ren).
  • The need for health services generally - and midwifery in particular - to understand and take into account wider cultural influences for the woman and her family on changing eating habits.
  • The need for more evidence on pre-conception interventions to improve diet and health.
  • The need for research into the effectiveness of particular health behaviour interventions for women born outside the UK and women of second/third generation minority ethnic families.

On inequalities

  • The value of specific, targeted antenatal education and support for women whose first language is not English or who have very specific personal needs, such as dealing with an abusive partner.
  • The importance of intensity and continuity of care for women in deprived areas or families, extending longer into the postnatal period to support access to health care and better health behaviours.
  • The need for research into drinking and drug use in pregnancy and evaluation of the most effective interventions to reduce these behaviours.

As the afternoon drew to a close, the air of engagement and motivation in the room made us confident that delegates would be taking their ideas back into the workplace, able to confidently refer to multiple sources of evidence set out in the ‘Better Beginnings’ report. We were encouraged by just some of the midwife delegates’ parting comments:

“The seminar has stimulated discussion around many of the political agendas which challenge and block simplification of evidence-based care pathways to improve outcomes in pregnancy to make it safer and better.”

“Implementation of research evidence is key. Reports such as Better Beginnings provides a fantastic resource for frontline staff who have opportunity to convey key messages.”  

“Very thought provoking – good to mix with researchers and academics. Focused me as a manager about the implementation of evidence.”

To get a sense of the day, see our Twitter moment.

  • Summary:

    Midwives and midwifery managers came together at the launch of Better Beginnings to discuss research on smoking cessation, diet and health inequalities.

About the author

Alison Ford

Head of Engagement, NIHR Dissemination Centre

Your comments

Captcha Test Image

National Institute for Health Research, Room 132, Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS

© 2016 - 2019 NIHR, all rights reserved