By: 21 April 2022
Midwife in focus with Beth Kitt

Beth is a qualified midwife who works at her local NHS hospital delivering babies and she is intent on helping women have positive birthing experiences that don’t cost the earth.

She also runs The Bump to Baby Chapter which is an amazing platform for pregnant women and new mums as it offers two online courses with nearly one hundred videos, cheatsheets and guides to various topics such as hypnobirthing, labour stages, coping with contractions as well as post-natal topics such as feeding, colic, sleep etc.


Obs: What drove you to choose your career as a midwife?

BK: I had a rocky first pregnancy, being 19 and feeling totally out of my depth. I met a midwife called Asha in triage who noticed that I had been in a few times for reduced movements. She looked beyond what I was coming in to hospital for and picked up on how anxious I was feeling. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone or being unreasonable. She saw that I was overwhelmed and took some time to chat through my worries. She made me feel so much more confident stepping into motherhood. I believe that the transition to motherhood, through pregnancy and birth, is a big deal in a woman’s life and I want to be able to help women feel strong stepping into arguably the most important roles of their lives.


Obs: What’s the best part of your job?

BK: I love looking at both a mother and father’s/partner’s face the moment baby is born into the world. Mum’s face looks relieved, shocked, ecstatic and then dad’s/partner looks in awe of everything that has just happened! The looks of love that go between mum, partner and baby makes my eyes fill every time.


Obs: … and the worst?

BK: The times when I feel too stretched to be able to give all the help and support I feel is needed is an awful feeling. This is often when there is competing demands. For example, wanting to be more present with a labouring woman, but also needing to keep on top of documentation. Or having a mum that is struggling to cope with contractions and needs you present, but you have concerns over baby’s heart rate so need to go out the room to find a FSE clip and an obstetrician. When demands compete it can be challenging to prioritise.


Obs: What has been the highlight of your career so far?

BK: When the pandemic hit and no one could do group antenatal classes, I was able to give the online antenatal and hypnobirthing course ( I created to the hospital (GRH) I work at, so that pregnant women and their partners could have antenatal education. This was a really proud moment as at that moment in time it was online or nothing. GRH then went on to create virtual antenatal courses as well so that midwives could lead the antenatal classes through virtual sessions. But, in the months that they were using my online course, over 500 women had access and enrolled on the course. It was a proud moment knowing that something I put so much love in creating, was now a life line for those in need of birth prep.


Obs: Tell us more about your antenatal online courses The Bump to Baby Chapter?

BK: I have two courses, one is to prepare for birth and the other is to prepare and support new mothers in their post-natal recovery and for the challenges that baby’s can bring. I wanted to create a birth course, not necessarily for the birth itself, but because what happens and how you feel on the day that you give birth stays with you forever. If birth was something that you could just get through and be done with, then I wouldn’t have put so much effort into creating a course to improve births for women. The day you give birth is such a pivotal moment of life and I wanted women to go into it knowing how to stack the odds in their favour for a great birth, and also how to navigate situations that wasn’t their original plan. All modes of birth can be wonderful, some may be more challenging than others, but I didn’t want women feeling like they may as well throw their plan in the bin because they were having an induction or failed because they chose an epidural. It’s about helping women feel great about their births so they step into motherhood feeling confident and empowered on their next chapter ahead of them. The Baby Chapter (the post-natal course) is all the things I wish I had support with when my children were little. I have brought in my favourite baby and post-natal experts for this to include a baby sleep pro, a cranial osteopath to talk about colic and reflux, a physiotherapist to help with mums’ recovery, breastfeeding and bottle feeding and then also mental health. A woman’s life changes in such a condensed time through pregnancy, birth and in the first year after, so having the information there to hand can make a world of difference to all these changes. Knowledge is power!


Obs: How do you aim to prepare women for a positive birthing experience?

BK: I like to split this up into three sections.The first being changing the way women think about birth. We have been conditioned in society to see that birth is a terrifying event. The opening credits of One Born Every Minute is women screaming, we have all heard a traumatic story from a neighbour, friend or family member, yet those who have births and feel amazing afterwards don’t seem to talk about their births as much and we never see a birth go “well” on the TV as that would make for boring TV. So when it comes to birth and feeling contractions, women are often already feeling terrified of what lies ahead of them. This plays havoc with their birth hormones and means they’re more likely to feel more pain from the fear, tension, pain cycle. So changing women’s perception of birth by showing them calmer birth videos or hearing stories about births without fear can be really helpful. And this is to include all types of birth the inductions, the longer births and the emergency cesareans. It’s important to distinguish between something that’s hard and challenging with something that’s going to leave you with fear and trauma.

Unlike a lot of hypnobirthing courses out there, I don’t think it’s helpful to say that birth is free from pain, as the majority of women report labour as painful. But I don’t think the word “pain” is the best way to describe contractions. Describing them as intense and strong shows how powerful they can be without giving the impression that something is wrong. Pain is often associated in our bodies when something is going wrong, ie. an infection or a broken bone. But, feeling like something is wrong isn’t going to be beneficial for those women in labour or for her birth. The second section is learning techniques to keep calm. Above I mentioned the fear, tension, pain cycle. Being able to break this cycle at the tension part can reduce pain and fear. These techniques include the use of breathing, visualisations and massage to using pain relief such as TENS, gas and air or an epidural. Using pain relief can reduce fear by reducing pain and by reducing tension. There are techniques that can be used in all situations. They can be used in pregnancy to reduce fears and anxieties that many women have, they can be used to cope with contractions, they can be used when feeling nervous going down to theatre for a cesarean. Feeling calm for birth is important not just for the birth but for bonding with your baby after, for breastfeeding, for reducing traumatic feelings and for reducing mental health issues in the post natal time.The last section is understanding how to stack the odds in your favour for a great birth. We have some control over how our births go, we can do things that can influence our births. Yet many women don’t know this. Things like staying home in early labour reducing the amount of cesarean births, perineal massage to lessen the tear or staying mobile to shorten labour and reduce intervention, or even that cesarean births can happen for maternal request. Women need to know this so that, if they choose to do so, they can stack the odds in their favour to get the birth they want.


Obs: Over the past two years, it is clear that the healthcare industry has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, what has been the greatest impact within your work and how has it affected birthing mothers and new parents?

BK: I think the biggest impact was when the restrictions were put on partners visiting times. In my local hospital through lockdown, partners could always be there during labour, but they had to wait outside until a women was first assessed as to being labour. Which meant that at the point where a women possibly felt most overwhelmed; having regular contractions, walking into the place where she was going to give birth, meeting a midwife and just about to find out if her contractions she was having meant that she was in labour or that she was going to be told to go home, she did alone. One point that I try and make to partners is that in labour, they are the biggest source of the mum’s oxytcoin, yet during lockdown, they were being asked to wait outside.


Obs: Are you currently involved with any research?

BK: Yes! We have just had a questionnaire and our research brief passed by the ethics committee.


Obs: Please can you tell us more about the research?

BK: I want to look at the different types of antenatal education, the more traditional ones, hypnobirthing, online and in person and see if the type of antenatal education a woman chooses has any effect on a women’s mode of birth, but more importantly how they felt during their birth and how they feel after birth.

Obs: Are you planning to attend any training events in 2022 aimed at midwives or new parents?

BK: I have my eyes on two. One is spinning babies. I am fascinated with their work. With the back to back baby often mentioned in women’s birth stories as a stalling factor to labour or a trigger to a more painful back labour, I feel like more should be done to learn about what we can do to encourage these baby’s to turn. I also have been looking at a breathwork course. The breath is something that women have with them at all times and it is a direct contributor to how a woman feels and the release of hormones. Yet, I don’t feel like as midwives we fully utilise this or encourage women to fully utilise this. I’d like to learn more about these two topics so that I can bring back what I’ve learnt to my midwife colleagues and share on social media to pregnant women across the globe.

Obs: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

BK: To make goals in life, stick to them, have faith in yourself that you can achieve them and to have patience. That even though you feel like at a moment in time, life is challenging, it won’t be like that forever. Keep chipping away at what you want from life and keep focused on what is important to you.

Obs: If you were Health Minister for the day what changes would you implement?

BK: I would teach more about birth in schools. You can pretty much guarantee that at least 80% of the pupils in a classroom are going to go on to be parents. They’re either going to be giving birth themselves or be supporting their partner giving birth. It is probably the “job role” with the most uptake in life and arguably one that will shape your life the most. Yet, it is not spoke about. It’s not like we can learn off our parents as we don’t see birth in a real setting as the majority of birth is in a hospital now, and there wouldn’t be many that see their parents with a young baby either or at least not enough times or at an age to truly learn. Plus, guidance changes all the time. More teaching in schools about oxytocin, adrenaline and the roles in birth, breastfeeding, bonding and responding to your baby will start to change the narrative around birth and parenthood. Doing this we would be nurturing the next generation of parents, that’s a massive deal.

Obs: How do you think the future looks in the field of midwifery and what are your predictions for 2022 and the next decade?

BK: It was sad to read in the RCM recently about the number of midwives leaving their careers and how there’s less being employed to how many are leaving. I have spoken throughout these questions about how much birth matters, how it stays with a women for the rest of their lives. And whilst that is a wonderful event to be a part of, the pressure is enormous. All midwives go into the profession because they love women and care deeply about their pregnancies and births. So when parts of the job role start to compete against each other it becomes super challenging and super stressful. You may not be able to help a woman with breastfeeding because another women is needing her antibiotics. It can feel like there isn’t enough resources to be able to care for women properly and that is a really horrible feeling. You feel like you have personally let that woman down even though you’re just one part of an overstretched system. It’s a downward spiral as midwives leave because of this, which then contributes to the shortage of midwives and increases the stretch in the hospitals.So what I’d like to see is more funding going into midwives, training them, hiring them and keeping them. I also think that we will have more homebirths over the next decade. As more and more research is showing how beneficial and safe homebirths are for women, alongside the amount of women now looking to hypnobirthing and other sources of antenatal resources for their ante-natal education, I think these will become more popular. I just hope that the issues with staffing doesn’t hold this change back, as it during times of struggle that homebirths and standalone units are the first to close.