Crowborough midwife first in Trust to be awarded PhD

July 16, 2015

A midwife who works at Crowborough Birthing Centre has become the first midwife in East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust to complete a PhD in Healthcare Sciences.

Nicky Mason, who has been a midwife for 24 years, started her research project through the University of Brighton in 2008. Her thesis, “Women’s stories of planned caesarean births in their first pregnancy,” focuses on the stories of eight women and their experiences before, during and after a planned caesarean section.

Nicky said: ““There is a lot of debate about women having “normal” births and the rising number of caesarean sections, but I noticed that none of the debate actually involved the women who have caesareans, it was all based on other people’s opinions. That just felt wrong to me, and I wanted to find out how a woman’s journey through pregnancy and birth unfolds and how it can vary from woman to woman.

“One of the things that surprised me was that the women I spoke to found the events leading up to a planned caesarean quite traumatic, yet there’s an assumption that the procedure has been planned so that removes the anxiety and uncertainty. My research also identified the perceptions society has about how women should give birth and the challenge in ensuring that a woman undergoing a planned caesarean feels that her experience is special and as individual as possible.

“As a midwife, it has also reinforced my view that the best way to do our job is to form a good relationship with pregnant women, and support them to have the best experience possible.”

Jenny Crowe, Head of Midwifery for the Trust, said “Not only is this a fantastic achievement for Nicky, but it is also great for the department to have a Doctor of Midwifery as a team member. Her thesis will also have real benefits for the midwifery profession as a significant, woman-centred body of evidence to contribute to our provision of care.”

As part of her research, Nicky set up a small advisory group of women who she worked with to test her ideas and research methods. They also helped her with the design of a website.

One of the women on this group, Deborah Pawley, said: “It has been both an honour and a privilege to be involved as Nicky’s worthy and important piece of research has evolved. I have learned so much about each different individual’s experience of planned caesarean birth. It has opened my eyes to a world that has, until now, been closed off and shown me the futility of my own prejudices; and the importance of understanding more deeply the intrinsic reasoning behind a woman’s personal choices when giving birth.

“It has been quite a journey and I think the end result is an almost poetic piece of work that could teach others so much about an important, necessary and previously unspoken subject. I would love to be involved as Nicky takes the next step in conveying her findings to a more public audience.”

2015-07-08 Nicky Mason

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