“WHEN we prepare women for labour, we explain that labour is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a long and difficult process, but you can get to the end with the right preparation and the right support,” says CUMH Domino Service midwife, Mags Higgins.
The midwives from the Domino service are extending this metaphor outside of their work lives by signing up to run in the Cork City marathon on Sunday, June 2.
Mags is going to run the half marathon, while eight other midwives from the CUMH Domino service, along with their colleagues from the birthing suite at the CUMH, will compete as relay teams.
Those taking part want to raise awareness of the Domino service in the hope more pregnant women will avail of it.
The CUMH Domino Service started in 2014 and provides midwife lead care for healthy pregnant women who are at low risk of complications in pregnancy. Women who live within a 15km radius of the CUMH can avail of the service.
It is separate to the consultant- led service, but the midwives work in very close partnership with the doctors.
Approximately 8,000 babies are born each year at the CUMH. Of those, about 220 babies are born via the Domino service, Mags says,
“We at the Domino service want to offer women who have low risk pregnancies, where no complications are anticipated, an alternative to obstetric led care.
“We offer them the opportunity to have a non-medicalised birth, an early transfer home with post-natal visits and breastfeeding support at home.”
The midwives at the Domino service work very closely with obstetricians at CUMH.
“The whole point of ante-natal care, whether midwifery or obstetric, is to ensure that everything during pregnancy, labour and birth is progressing normally, with no complications or concerns.
“We have an excellent relationship with our obstetric colleagues. We work closely with the obstetricians and refer women, if an issue arises. If those problems or issues resolve, the obstetrician will then refer the woman back to us.
“Everyone’s main focus is the safety of mother and baby, so we work closely as a team.”
Under Domino service care, the same midwives care for a pregnant woman throughout her pregnancy until baby is born. Mags explains that “the idea is that the woman who is pregnant gets to know a few of the midwives before she goes into labour”.
She adds: “We are trying to promote continuity of care. Research suggests that knowing the person who is caring for you during your pregnancy helps reduce stress, helps manage pain and empowers the woman giving birth.
“The whole birth outcome and women’s perception of the birthing process is improved when a woman has a connection with her midwife.”
The midwives cover a pregnant woman’s hospital visits, her time in the birthing suite and ante-natal visits in the home.
“The women who are cared for by the Domino service call us when they go into labour. We counsel them over the phone when labour is in its early stages before advising them to come into hospital. We assist them with the birth of their baby.
“Most of the women will go home within 12 hours or whenever they feel most comfortable to go home. We visit them at home with their babies for five days afterwards.”
The Domino service is becoming more popular because “women are more aware of what they want and the choices they can make themselves when it comes to birthing their babies.
“For those women who want to have that choice and want to have a midwife-led birth, we are an alternative for them.”
Midwife means ‘with woman’. Mags says: “A midwife is that person who supports you at a vulnerable time, the person who will get you through that difficult time, will answer all your questions, break things down and give you a clear picture of what is happening, and get you through the most life- changing and life-affirming event in any woman’s life.
“We consider it a huge privilege to be present at the birth. It’s very special. We try our best to make it a positive and memorable occasion for every couple we meet.”
The midwives at the Domino service have received lots of positive feedback from women who have used their service, in particular the post-natal care in the home.
“A lot of our women find the post-natal support visits in the home are invaluable.
“We visit for approximately 45 minutes to an hour each day for five days after the baby has been born. We check both mum and baby and tailor the visit for the specific needs of mum and baby. We address any worries mum may have and give her support with breast feeding in those early days, which are crucial.
“The midwife that visits after baby is born is one of the midwives that helped deliver baby and has been involved in caring for the woman during her pregnancy, which means there is a trust and connection between the woman and the midwife.”
Mags and her colleagues at the Domino service are running the marathon to highlight the service to the public.
“Some women who would be a perfect fit for the Domino Service may not have heard of us, so we would like to make our services known to them.
“Other women may misinterpret what the service is about, for example, they might think they have to go home with 12 hours of delivery and that there are rigid rules around that, which there aren’t.”
Martina Dillon, Máiread O’Reilly, Lynda Moore, Jocelyn Coughlan, Colette Mansfield, Denise Malone, and Liz Clancy work in the Domino service and will run the relay on June 2.
Their colleague, Lisa Barry is currently on maternity leave. Mary Newlands is also a Domino midwife and will be working on the day of the marathon. The relay teams also include Frances Healy, Eimear Quaid, Helen Cronin and Elaine Fitzgibbon from the CUMH birthing suite.