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Why continuity of carer matters

24 May 2019

At Better Start Bradford we have over 15  projects supporting families in our area of Bradford. We were thrilled when we learned that two of our projects have been working together and supporting an isolated single mum through her birth journey, creating a continuity of carer that she had not had with her previous children. Thanks to the Bradford Doulas and The Clover Team, the mum had continuous support throughout her pregnancy and birth journey.

In this blog we hear from volunteer doula, Rosa Blackwell, 35. Rosa explains how the care the mum received led to a more positive birth and post-natal experience.

Rosa’s Story

My name is Rosa Blackwell and I have been a volunteer doula for just over a year. I am also the mum of two boys aged 8 and 3.

My background is in breastfeeding support and through this role, I often came across the work of the Bradford Volunteer Doulas. I just thought the volunteer doula project was brilliant and wanted to be part of it, so when I had the opportunity to undertake the training, I grabbed it.

I have supported three families so far and it has been amazing. It is such a privilege to be part of a woman’s birth journey and to be able to support her through it. My third mum also had the support of Susan, a midwife from The Clover Team, who deliver Better Start Bradford’s Personalised Midwifery Care Project.

Because of the continuity of carer, the mum soon learned to trust us

The mum who I supported has other children, but they had been born in London. She was new to Bradford and is raising her family alone. She has no support from any family locally and as she has recently moved to the area, she hasn’t got a network of friends either. For someone so isolated, it is difficult for her to build up trust, however, because of the continuity of carer that Susan and myself provided, she soon learned to trust and confide in us.

We learned that after her previous pregnancies she did have post-natal depression and she was obviously anxious about this happening again. We were able to reassure her that she was not alone.

In the lead up to the birth, I already knew her midwife Susan as I had attended a couple of appointments with the mum. I was there when they put together the birth plan, which was great as we were all on the same page with the plan. The continuity of care model means that the family sees the same person all of the time, so there is no need to repeat information over and over again at each appointment and you can build a strong relationship.

On the day of the birth, I had just got home from work when I got the call to say that the mum had gone into labour. I had been on call for two weeks as the mum had birthed very quickly previously and she had been stopping and starting labour throughout this period. I had been on standby and I was worried that I wouldn’t get there in time. Fortunately, I did.

It was lovely that I knew the midwife and she knew me – it really did make a difference

I met Susan at the Bradford Royal Infirmary so we could both be there to welcome the mum when she arrived at the hospital. She was already in established labour, but you could see that she visibly relaxed when she saw that we were there waiting for her. We took her to her room and settled her in. It was so lovely that I knew Susan and she knew me – it really did make a difference. It felt by having this existing relationship, we made such a good team supporting the mum and she was very happy and settled with both of us by her side.

The birth did happen quite quickly and the mum was amazing – she kept mobile and upright throughout and Susan and I supported her to change positions when she needed to. She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl weighing 7lb 2oz and she didn’t use any pain relief at all. She breastfed her baby girl straight away: she was so delighted. I stayed for a while to help to establish the breastfeeding and visited the next day to again support with breastfeeding. I also brought some baby things that had been provided by the Gianna Project. The project supports and provides baby items for low income families. It helps them to purchase items that they would not be able to afford otherwise and I had put a referral in on the mum’s behalf.

It is so important for pregnant women to have a trusting relationship

This support was so important for this single mum with no family or social support locally. It was really beneficial for her having the continuity of care with people she could trust and build up a really nice relationship. We could also help with basics, for example, planning for childcare while she was in hospital. It is so important for pregnant women to have a trusting relationship: the continuity of carer model helps them to build that up.

As the mum had a history of post-natal depression, she was very appreciative of the support of Susan and myself. She has told us that she didn’t feel alone this time and hadn’t struggled like she had in the past with her mental health. It’s hearing things like that, that makes being a volunteer doula so rewarding and a privilege to be able to make a difference in someone’s life.

I feel passionate about the importance of the role of a doula and they should be available for everyone. Our volunteer doula project means doulas are accessible to women who really need one in the Better Start Bradford area.

Susan Gache, 49, the midwife from The Clover Team said: “It was so refreshing for the mum to have a birth partner that understood all of her birth needs as we had planned it all together. Rosa was wonderful and we felt like a little team – it was a much more intimate experience.

“Because Rosa and I had already met at previous appointments, we were waiting together at the hospital ready to wrap our support around the mum as soon as she arrived – it was so valuable.”

About Bradford Doulas

Bradford Doulas offer free practical and emotional support to pregnant mums six weeks before the birth, during labour and six weeks after the birth, through trained volunteers.

Our Bradford Doulas project supports women to make the best choices for themselves and their babies, helping them to achieve a positive birth experience and building their knowledge to enable them to make informed decisions about childbirth, nutrition and breastfeeding. Support from volunteer doulas can also connect families into network of other support services.

About the Clover Team

The Better Start Bradford Personalised Midwifery Care Project is delivered by the Clover Team.

Families are supported by the same midwife who co-ordinates and personally delivers most of their care before, during and after the birth of their baby. The Clover Team midwife supports them in planning and making informed choices around the birth and offers enhanced care to help promote key health messages around breastfeeding, smoking and nutrition.