How have UK midwifery units, and the women planning birth there, changed over the past 15 years?
Jennifer MacLellan, Nuffield Department of Primary Heath Care
Since 2014, guidance across the UK has advised that women at low risk of complications should have a choice about where to give birth, and that midwifery units are “particularly suitable”. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of midwifery units, and the percentage of births taking place in midwifery units, increased, but there are no published data about changes since then.
Since 2015, a number of drivers may have had an impact on the number and proportion of births taking place in midwifery units, on the characteristics and outcomes of women planning birth there, and on the experiences and morale of midwives working in midwifery units. These include: successive investigations raising concerns about team working in settings with midwifery units; midwifery staff shortages; and the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to widespread closures of midwifery units.
The aim of this project is to inform national maternity care policy by providing evidence about the changing landscape of UK midwifery unit provision and utilisation, and the experiences and morale of midwives working in these settings.
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING
The project will involve a wide range of research skills, including: secondary analysis of quantitative data; primary data collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data; writing for publication and presentation at scientific meetings.
Proposed components of this project include:
- secondary analysis of data collected by the UK Midwifery Study System (UKMidSS) since 2016 about the number of UK midwifery units and the numbers of women giving birth in these settings, and national data about the overall number of births
- primary data collection using UKMidSS about the characteristics and outcomes of women giving birth in midwifery units, and comparison with data collected in the Birthplace study in 2008-10
- a qualitative study to explore the experiences and morale of midwives working in UK midwifery units
The student will be expected to write up their results in papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals as they complete each stage of their research.
FIELD WORK, SECONDMENTS, INDUSTRY PLACEMENTS AND TRAINING
Based in the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, the student will be part of a thriving and stimulating multi-disciplinary research environment. Training will be provided in data management and analytic methods using Stata and qualitative interviewing and analysis. The student will also have access to a range of training in transferable and research skills.
This project is suitable for a student with previous training and/or a qualification in public health or a related discipline, who has an interest in maternal health and is keen to develop their skills in quantitative and qualitative research.