Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery

New e-learning tool that could improve birth experience

Thursday, 15 March 2018

E-learning tool - water birth

Brookes Midwifery, Community and Public Health staff Ethel Burns and Lesley Smith have developed an innovative new e-learning tool to help midwives estimate blood loss in waterbirth settings.

This unique and versatile new approach could, Lesley tell us, “helpmidwives become more highly skilled, improve practice and deliver a betterbirth experience.

It has the potential to make a difference to midwives round the globe. It’s low cost, high convenience and it could have a really wide reach.

Dr Lesley Smith, Reader Maternal and Women's Public Health, Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery

What really sets the tool apart is its versatility. Delivered entirely online, it’s something that can easily fit around a busy workload for midwives and students. As Ethel Burns says, “It has huge potential. Every year, midwivesare required to update their knowledge and skills … this resource could bewoven into their daily work.

The tool has been developed over the course of two different dissertation projects. When midwifery student Megan Beckhurst first came to Ethel and Lesley to research blood loss and waterbirth, they realised there was little research out there. Current tools to help midwives make these estimates were mainly based on using static images based on colour comparisons; for example, comparing the colour of the water to rosé wine or Ribena.

Every year, in the UK, more women choose to give birth in water. Therefore, midwives need to be able to accurately estimate blood loss. This is important both for safety and birth experience - making sure the smoothest possible birth is possible without interruption.

Megan had the idea to create videos that simulate a waterbirth scenario. They used student volunteers to model a woman in the birthing pool. Then, with the help of Oxford Medical Illustration, they made a series of videos to provide a realistic simulation. They made 12 videos in total, each comprising a different blood volume. These received excellent feedback on the usefulness and utility of the approach from student midwives at Oxford Brookes.

A second student, Zoe Rodd, took the idea further. She suggested that the videos could be embedded in an online training programme to create an e-learning tool. This was piloted with midwives in the local trust and the data gathered was very encouraging. There is increasing interest from midwives who can see the tool’s use in education and professional development.

Now, Lesley and Ethel are further developing this tool by expanding its evaluation with more trusts. 

It has the potential to make a difference to midwives round the globe.” says Lesley, “It’s low cost, high convenience and it could have a really widereach.

The tool has recently been registered as protected Intellectual Property. Once evaluation and refinement is complete, it should be available through Brookes to institutions worldwide.