Maternity Care: Building Relationships Really Does Save Lives [transcript][audio]

Guest: Professor Jenny Gamble

Presenter: Tabetha Moreto

Guest Bio: Professor Jenny Gamble is the Head of Midwifery at Griffith University.
She is an award winning university teacher with an international reputation as a maternity researcher and a professional leader. She developed an award-winning Bachelor of Midwifery program, and an innovative Master of Primary Maternity Care program.

Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Professor Gamble promotes the the new health-related free MOOC called Maternity Care: Building Relationships Really Does Save Lives which is being offered by Griffith University. It’s all about improving global maternity care.


Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for the day, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Jenny Gamble, head of Midwifery at Griffith University. She is an award-winning university teacher with an international reputation as a maternity researcher and a professional leader. Today, we’re going to talk about a very interesting topic about Griffith’s launching their first health-related free online course called ‘Maternity Care: Building relationships really does save lives’, in order to improve global maternity care. Without further ado, welcome to the show Jenny. I’m so happy you can join us today.

Jenny Gamble: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

T: Yes, my pleasure too. So Jenny please tell the audience more about yourself and the nature of your work.

J: As professor and head of Midwifery at Griffith, we’re really trying to address the big issues facing maternity care globally. So part of that journey is obviously to prepare midwives, so we run undergraduate programs to prepare midwives for entry into practice. We also run a fully online master of primary maternity care and we run a range of research projects. But this new venture for us is really to try to reach a global audience and to make that information, that evidence-based information accessible to everybody by providing it through a free online course. Hence, this first MOOC maternity care building relationships really does save lives. I guess it’s built on a very strong clinical background for me. I was first a midwife in the 80s and I worked in various countries and various parts of Australia. So I build my research and teaching career on that strong clinical background.

T: Excellent. Tell us more about this free online course. What can people learn from this specifically?

J: I think the course is really designed to help people understand the compelling case for change. Why our maternity services regardless of whether you’re in a high income or a middle income or a low income country. Why our maternity services aren’t really designed around the needs of women and their babies. In this course, learners will explore how they can make a difference, but to make a difference you need a set of skills and frameworks, you need to know about the evidence and you need to know what could change and how to change it. For instance in our first week, we really just talked about maternity care. We just define it, we talked about what are the problems with the current maternity system, why it’s broken, talk about disrupting births and the conveyor belt care. We talked about the lack of collaboration and integration in male maternity services. It doesn’t really matter which country you’re in. Some countries do it better than others but every country in the world needs to improve. We also talked in the free online course about the impact on maternity care providers. We now have a growing body of evidence about how the fragmented care system that we currently run, it adversely affects midwives and doctors and that maternity care providers often feel exhausted and overwhelmed. There’s good research now that confirms the need to change not just for women and their families but for the maternity care providers too and then of course we start to build on that and introduce people to new ways of thinking about how maternity care can be designed.

T: Excellent, I agree with you Jenny. Every woman in every country around the world should deserve the best maternity care.

J: Yes and I think especially in low-income countries, they’ve done some good work to turn it around but women and babies are still dying unnecessarily. And I think we really have to come to grips that this is avoidable. These are preventable deaths and if we get the design and delivery of maternity care right, we can save lives which is what this online course is all about. And really fundamentally, at the end of the day we’re selling a message, we’re promoting a message, we have used the evidence to guide us and creating and understanding that relationships in maternity care really do matter. Building relationships between the care providers, midwife and the woman between the midwife and other people in the healthcare team and even between the care providers and the women and the funders and the policy makers, those relationships really do, in a cliche sense, make the world go round. But they also are at the heart of a quality maternity care system.

T: That’s fantastic. Tell us why is this topic relevant to health professionals?

J: I think this topic is relevant to health professionals but in fact it is broadly relevant to anybody who has interested in the provision of maternity care and how to improve it. So health care providers often feel a little bit sort of locked in to the way that they currently do things, a little bit trapped even and a little bit feeling powerless that they’re powerless about their ability to make an impact on how the maternity system is designed and run and we would argue. That’s quite widespread but when people are looking at their work life in isolation, looking at it just from within their own institution or work setting, then in fact they are quite powerless. But through building relationships and creating a community of practice that draws on the evidence and the strength of others, we have an opportunity to turn that around. Loads of people leave maternity care as health providers, they leave the profession, they leave the workforce because they’re burnt out and because they’re stressed and because they’re distressed about what they see. Are there inadequacies of our current system? Well those people should come and do this course because this course is all about enabling people to know how, precisely how we can pull it all together to reclaim birth, to humanize birth, to restore birthing services and to change maternity care.

T: Fantastic. I hope you don’t mind Jenny I want to ask you a personal question. Why are you so passionate about maternity care? Why are you so passionate about this particular topic?

J: Well on a very personal level, as opposed to professional level, I’m a mother and my first daughter was stillborn at term, my second daughter’s now nearly growing up, she’s grown up, she’s a young adult. And being a mother is such a critical part of life for me and it resonates. It is for other mothers too, we’re a community of women and when you’re mothers, there’s always a point of connection between you. I know how important it is to feel good about yourself as a mother, confident about yourself as a mother, so that you can mother your child and grow with your child as your child reaches maturity. For me, people feel very sad when they hear about a baby’s life lost but obviously it is very tragic and I was very, very sad. But I had excellent care, like not excellent fragmented care, not just people being kind to me, I had my own midwife all the way through. The baby’s death was not preventable. It was unavoidable. When I described it to people I say, I was cocooned in love and although it is a very sad and tragic time my long lasting memory is of being loved and cared for. I sort of think that that would be amazing if all women felt like that about their journey into motherhood and it’s not particularly about whether their baby was born alive or stillborn as mine was or there’s some other complications. The notion that women can be surrounded by love and support when they have their babies I think is critical to building a strong community. Women are the backbone of communities. If we can put women on their feet, confident, feeling good about themselves, feeling supported, being supported as they become mothers, then in fact, I think that and this is where it intersects with me as a professional – I actually think that is the foundation of our high functioning, civil and effective community. It is an intersect between the personal and the professional for me.

T: That was a very touching story. Thank you so much for sharing that and I agree with you. I’m a mother myself, so I know that feeling when I gave birth to my child. Actually I had a cesarean, so I was so happy and I was so lucky that I had the good maternity care despite the fact it’s painful giving birth whether it’s normal or cesarean. I was so glad that the doctors took care of me, the nurses took care of me, so having that maternity care and I agree with you on that, it’s very important for every mother to feel that way.

J: Yes, it absolutely is. And I think helping the team work together to make sure that the whole interdisciplinary team are working together. That too is really built on relationships but I guess what’s also clear in terms of evidence and this online course is based in the evidence. We’re also trying to communicate, well I think we do that very effectively I think people will really enjoy it. We’re using the evidence to show how you could redesign your maternity care. This online course is fully based in the evidence so it draws on and is based on The Lancet Series on midwifery and it talks about and shows how the framework for quality maternal and newborn care can be implemented. The evidence is extremely clear now and compelling. For instance, we know that if a woman has her own midwife all the way through the pregnancy, the same midwife during labor and birth and the same midwife afterward, we know that she has a 23% reduced chance of her baby being born preterm. Preterm is a large killer of babies. We know she is less likely to lose the baby early before 20 weeks. We know that she’s less likely to lose the baby at any time including after birth when it’s born. So that notion of connecting the midwife, really connecting the midwife with the woman is critical to saving lives and that’s all about relationship. When a woman has her own midwife all the way through, she is also more likely to tell the midwife the important things about her. She’s more likely to be able to absorb and implement any health education that the midwife gives her and the midwife can help her navigate the system. So she doesn’t have to find every service for herself, the midwife can help her access doctors when needed or other health professionals or other community services. Connecting women with their own midwife for that journey is absolutely has compelling evidence now to say that that women like it, it’s very supportive, it works, it’s cheaper, it’s better for midwives and it saves lives.

T: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing that. Before we go Jenny, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there on Health Professional Radio?

J: Well I would say come and join this online course with us. We already have thousands of learners joined up. It starts on Monday. I think that you will find it engaging. I think that you’ll find it informative, and also it really is designed to give you an opportunity to participate in a broader community that will be helpful for you in your professional life and helpful in reforming and redesigning and changing maternity services. Come and join us, we’re really excited to be offering it.

T: Fantastic. And speaking of your online course for those who want to join or for those who are interested, how can they get in touch with you?

J: To join our online course, our Master Primary Maternity Care is on the Griffith website. You can just go to Griffith University and type in primary maternity care we’ll take you straight to that. We also have opportunities for single courses of study, so if they’re particularly interested in just advanced breastfeeding and lactation or perinatal mental health, those can all be done as single and standalone courses of study. That’s fully online, so they can be accessed anywhere in the world.

T: Excellent. So they have four more days to join, because today’s Thursday. Thank you so much Jenny for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.

J: You’re welcome. Thank you for talking with me.

T: That was Jenny Gamble, the head of midwifery at Griffith University. We’ve just been talking about this new health-related free online course entitled ‘Maternity Care: Building relationships really does save lives.’ That’s being offered by her University. If you like this interview, transcripts and archives are available at We’re on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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