On Thursday of last week we had a bit of time before the clinic began so my mentor and I sat and went through my book that I have to get signed off during my time on placement. We sat and talked about what we'd already covered and what I already knew and looked at what I didn't know. It really made me think about what we do and why and made me feel good about the things I had learnt along the way.
So my mentor then told me she was going to let me "run" the clinic. Of course she wasn't going anywhere but whereas previously she'd do the writing and most of the talking, whilst I did the urinalysis, blood pressure and we both did the palpation, this time I was going to do the lot and she'd check my palpations intermittently...particularly those that were worried about the size of their baby or had babies in awkward positions previously.
We saw around 20 women and had barely a break in between. I find I work better when it is like this - it seems to solidify my learning so much more. I think I got almost every palpation correct and I felt like I was getting to grips with measuring the height of the bump too. It really made a difference as to how I came across to the women as well I think as I am sure they can pick up when I am more uncertain about things.
For more information about what happens at antenatal clinic, you might find it useful to look at my previous post Antenatal Clinic.
Another part of being a Community Midwife is the postnatal visits to new Mums in their homes. There are three guaranteed visits that all women get. The first visit is the day after the woman and baby get home from the hospital. Around day five we visit to perform the heel prick test on the newborn and if the baby is breastfed we also weigh the baby. The final visit is usually on day ten where we discharge the woman to the Health Visitors care. Women are covered by maternity care until day twenty eight but most women won't require this. It may also be that women get more than the three visits during those first ten days but it does depend on what their needs are. For example, a lady who has just had a third baby and is comfortable with all she is doing, recovering well may well not need anymore visits. Whereas a first time Mum who is getting to grips with breastfeeding and recovering from a section would benefit from more visits. And it's not as simple as saying well she's a third time Mum she won't need us, because she might, so it's looked at from an individual basis.
We ask the woman about her bleeding and how she is feeling in general. The reason for this is because sometimes after giving birth there can be retained products - parts of placenta or membranes. The uterus may expel them naturally but the last thing we want is for the woman to get an infection. If the Mum has increased bleeding combined with a temperature then we'd be palpating the uterus to check it's contracting down as expected. If the uterus is "spongy" then it's an indication that something could be going on and we'd send the Mum and baby back into the hospital to be checked over. Sometimes women have heavier bleeding if they've been more active, or just after they have been breastfeeding or also when she gets up after a long period of lying still so heavier bleeding on it's own is not an indication of anything to worry about. Similarly it's quite normal to have a temperature when the milk comes in so it's vital to look at the whole picture.
We also ask the women about their toilet habits....yes Midwives are obsessed with wee and poo! The reason for asking is quite simple. The bladder, uterus and bowel are all very close together and the bladder can be damaged and lead to urine retention. It is common for many women not to have a bowel movement until day 4 or 5 but we ask about it because women can be very nervous about it, particularly if they have stitches. So it provides the opportunity to reassure them. Also we want to avoid women becoming constipated and so we can talk about ways to avoid this.
We also ask whether or not their breasts are comfortable whether or not they are breastfeeding. This is because almost every woman will have milk come in regardless of whether they choose to breastfeed or not. This gives breastfeeding mothers to talk about any concerns they may have about position and latch, frequency of feeding and so on. We can also talk to bottle feeding mothers about how to cope with the pain and the engorgement as quickly as possible. We also like to ensure that women are eating, drinking and sleeping - well sleeping as well as they can considering they have a newborn. The body needs food, water and rest in order to produce milk but also the women need the opportunity to recover from the birth.
We ask about how the women are feeling emotionally. We can reassure women that it's normal for emotions to be all over the place after giving birth but we also want to be aware of any women who might be at risk of postnatal depression. Postnatal women are at risk of deep vein thrombosis so we ask if they have any pains in their legs and this is particularly important with women who have had a Cesarean section. We also make sure that women are aware of their postnatal exercises.
Of course we also check the baby over. We look at their temperature, frequency of feeding, whether or not the cord has come off yet, how their nappies are and how frequently they are needing changing, and we also look at their skin. Newborn babies often have very dry skin which is normal but we can advise women on what to do to prevent it becoming sore, cracked and potentially infected. We recommend olive oil as it's a natural substance and won't harm a baby's delicate skin. The other thing we have to look out for is any bruising or fingertip marks. I am thankful that this is not something I have seen.