Pregnant at computerCreative Commons Attribution license 2.0 by Ciphr Connect,

Making and maintaining connections

Communications technology has potential to help midwives connect with pregnant women/people.

Pregnant women/people are increasingly using digital technology such as texting, emailing, instant messaging, pregnancy applications, social media and the internet to access information about their pregnancy. While communication technology is used by midwives, there is little evidence on how midwives and pregnant women/people use communication technology when communicating with each other. To what extent are they doing so and how might this improve the maternal and newborn health service which midwives provide? This is the focus of Principal Lecturer Karen Wakelin's PhD research, with supervisors Judith McAra-Couper, Tania Fleming and Gwen Erlam.

Karen Wakelin has begun with an integrative literature review of international peer reviewed studies between 2010 and 2021. She found just five studies that addressed this issue directly. These were then assessed using the Critical Appraisals Skills Programme checklist, and summarised to enable comparison of themes or relationships between the studies. Four main themes were identified: 

  1. Connecting: Using communication technology appeared to provide a safe space for information sharing within which pregnant women/people and midwives could connect.
  2. Access to healthcare:  Feeling connected supported the pregnant woman/person in their access to maternity services, regardless of whether the pregnant person and midwife were known to each other.
  3. Privacy and confidentiality: Concerns were identified relating to issues of privacy.
  4. Lack of skills and knowledge. Another concern related to the skills which pregnant women/people and midwives need to have to access and use the technology.

Further research is being undertaken into how midwives and pregnant women/people use communication technology when communicating with one another, and how communication technology is used within a midwifery continuity of care model.