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UC midwife rewarded for improvements to child birth

Antony Perry

9 May 2017: A University of Canberra academic whose work has reduced the number of women experiencing physical trauma during childbirth has been recognised at the 2016 ACT Quality in Healthcare Awards.

Clinical Chair in Midwifery Professor Deborah Davis and her team at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children received the recently announced Innovative Models of Care Award.

The team developed a multidisciplinary intervention program to reduce the number of cases of women suffering severe trauma or tears to their perineum during labour.

The area prone to tearing is the skin between the vagina and the anus.

Professor Davis said the program, which was implemented last June, has halved the rate of complications at the hospital.

“Receiving public recognition is the icing on the cake for us, but the biggest benefit is seeing fewer women walk away with injuries,” Professor Davis said.

“That’s enough to motivate us and that’s the only reward we need, but of course it’s lovely to be recognised publicly for the work.”

The interventions developed as part of the program include applying warm compresses to the perineum, reducing the use of forceps and other devices in the delivery of the child, and positioning women upright during labour.

“Warm compresses help to comfort women during child birth and they’ve been proven to have a really positive effect on reducing the number of tears to a woman’s perineum,” Professor Davis said.

“Limiting the use of surgical instruments and not having women give birth on their backs are also proven methods of reducing the risk.”

Multidisciplinary workshops were held to educate hospital staff about the program. Professor Davis said the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“The workshops were evaluated really well and everyone enjoyed learning together,” she said. “We encouraged staff to share their tips and ideas, so we had medical doctors learning from experienced midwives.”

The University’s Dean of the Faculty of Health, Professor Diane Gibson, congratulated Professor Davis and her team on their achievement.

“Professor Davis’s Clinical Chair in Midwifery is jointly fund by the University of Canberra and ACT Health, bringing together the worlds of research and clinical practice to improve health outcomes for patients,” Professor Gibson said.

“Professor Davis is an exemplar of what it means to be a clinical chair and our students are fortunate to have her as both a role model and a mentor.”