Name: Anna Marsh
Job Title: Midwifery Researcher Lead Midwife for the Antenatal Clinic
I graduated from Coventry University as a qualified Midwife in 2017 and began my preceptorship shortly after at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in central London. Since then, I have completed secondments as a Research Midwife and as the Specialist Midwife for Infectious Diseases, and now work as the Lead Midwife for the Antenatal Clinic. In 2021 I started a Wellbeing of Women Entry Level Scholarship for Midwives alongside a Masters of Research exploring midwives’ use of social media within their professional role.
Social media as a means of communication between midwives and women.
I am an early career researcher. I sought and received an entry level scholarship from Wellbeing of Women, which has enabled me to run my first research project.
Wellbeing of Women Entry Level Scholarship for Midwives (Award Ref: ELSM1001) Jan 2021 – Jan 2022
HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical and Practitioner Academic (ICA) Programme Pre-doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship (PCAF) Dec 2022 – Dec 2023
One great thing that your profession has achieved for Nursing and Midwifery practice
Being part of a woman and her family’s journey to parenthood is the greatest honour – we have the opportunity to make such a difference to someone’s experience during such a pivotal moment of their lives!
Statement about yourself and career any interests
I don’t think this is how you’re supposed to start these things, but I never really planned to get into research! Whilst I’m thrilled that I did and really enjoy it now, I had always envisaged my career being entirely clinical and didn’t see how research would fit in alongside.
During my undergraduate midwifery degree, I wrote my dissertation on how television influences women’s decision making and thoughts about birth. Findings were that the excessive dramatization of birth on tv was thought to cause fear in pregnant women, but that there wasn’t much work into the area and my review mainly featured work done by a small team at Bournemouth University. I enjoyed the project but honestly, after graduating and starting clinical practice, I didn’t think too much more about it.
It wasn’t until I worked in the Antenatal Clinic during my preceptorship that my thoughts were turned back to the modern-day influences on pregnant women. I had countless conversations with women who were experiencing fear of birth despite never having a baby before, or who had very specific ideas about what their birth should look like. A common source of their concerns or ideas seemed to come back to social media. A quick literature search later, and I realised that there was very limited research into the field, apart from some quite concerning studies showing that women were turning the social media for advice, and others saying that midwives weren’t using it.
So I reached out to the Bournemouth University team for their help, and have been lucky enough to have worked with them ever since! Working alongside Professor Vanora Hundley and Dr Ann Luce, I was awarded a Wellbeing of Women Entry-Level Scholarship, which took me out of clinical practice one day a week to focus on researching midwives use of social media alongside a Masters of Research. Within the project, I completed a scoping review of nurses and midwives’ views of using social media, finding that practitioners were reluctant to use it due to fear of professional retribution, although when it was incorporated into undergraduate studies they found a sense of community and a platform for knowledge sharing. Next, I undertook a content analysis of midwives’ portrayal of birth on the social media platform Instagram. Posts were mainly under-medicalised, showing a large proportion of homebirths, waterbirths and vaginal births and an unrepresentative majority of white women. The effect of this on women during their childbirth journey is currently unknown.
From my research, it became clear that training for midwives in how to use social media safely and with confidence is needed, and it is needed now. We have such a privileged role, caring for women and their families during such a pivotal time, and with a more established communication channel through social media I hope we can improve the safety and experience of the care that we provide. During my NIHR PCAF, I will explore this work further, including visiting hospitals who are using social media successfully, undertake modules in Consumer Insights, Media Innovation, work with industry specialists and eventually, aim to be in a position to develop a training programme for midwives. I am hoping that one day I will be lucky enough to be awarded an NIHR DCAF fellowship to undertake a PhD in which to explore it further.