European Midwives Association Meeting
September 2017

ARM has been a member of the European Midwives Association (EMA) for many years. Membership comes at a moderate cost which the Steering Group has agreed to maintain in order to give us a voice in Europe. At present I represent the ARM at EMA and have developed a good working relationship with the Royal College of Midwives, the only other U.K. Association with membership at the EMA. This year’s meeting once again clashed with the ARM’s annual gathering so in a 28 hour period, I returned from Wales to Scotland and flew out early the next morning to Madrid. My husband accompanied me as Madrid, and it’s museums and football, had long been a place he wished to visit. Not being keen on either of these, I was more than happy to let him be the tourist whilst I attended the meeting.

We arrived mid afternoon and set out for a short exploration of the area near the hotel. We visited Retiro Park, an absolute must see for anyone visiting Madrid and much my most favourite place. We also looked for dinner as we were quickly tiring, having left home at 5am but found this quite problematic. The people of Madrid do not eat til late in the evening and most restaurants did not open til 8.30pm. We eventually dined at a Tapas bar.

Next day, Ian set off for the Pravda museum and I registered for the meeting. Approximately 25 countries were represented at the meeting. Patricia Gillen, RCM, was already in our front seat place in the meeting and I discovered that the Spanish Midwives had thought I was from Norway. Places had been adjusted the previous evening when the board noticed the mistake but my name badge still had me as Norwegian. A lovely place but not Scotland! After lots of renewing of friendships, the meeting got under way and I was quickly busy as I had volunteered to be a teller for the voting. Another self appointed role was to tweet notes from the two day meeting and these can still be read by searching for #EMidwives2017.

The first day is largely business so after an opening address and welcome from the President Mervi Jokinen also from the RCM, and from the President of the Federation de Asociaciones de Matronas de Espana, Jesus Dominguez Simon, the midwifery association who was hosting the meeting, a representative from the Ministry of Health opened the meeting. We smoothly moved through the Annual and Financial reports and on to reports of various working groups from the previous twelve months. One of these has been in progress for some time as the EMA is trying to update Annex 5 of the EU directives which identifies the minimum requirements for Midwifery education. This is proving difficult with some countries running programmes well in advance of these standards, including the UK, whilst many others struggle to get necessary experiences due to obstetricians carrying out all AN care and most births.


Operational Refugee and Migrant Maternal Approach

A second project EMA is involved in is ORAMMA, the Operational Refugee and Migrant Maternal Approach. This is an area all the midwives have been concerned with over the previous two meetings, with several representing countries having many immigrants escaping dire conditions in their own country. The EMA midwives have been most concerned that refugee women are cared for during their pregnancies and the birth. The project was presented by both the EMA President and a vivacious young Greek Midwife Victoria Vivlaki. This same midwife has recently gained funding to produce an Open Access journal, the European Journal of Midwifery, and is organising the venue for the 2018 EMA meeting in Greece. She has also recently given birth to a beautiful little girl, whose photo is soon brought out during conversation. What is that saying? If you want something done, give it to a busy person. The first day came to a close with an Open Floor in which member associations give a summary of achievements and challenges from the past year in their own countries. Patricia and I spoke about the loss of the midwifery committee at the NMC, and of Supervision, and the really bad press Midwives are getting at present.

Madrid, incidentally, is bathed in wall to wall sunshine at this time of the year, and temperatures of 25 – 30 degrees. Lunch was served in the hotel gardens and included a delicious paella, rolls, salads, fresh fruit and tiny cakes, washed down with soft drinks, beer and wine! We were well looked after. And later that evening the Spanish Midwives arranged a walking tour of the old town, followed by a gala dinner (commencing at 9pm!).


Perinatal Mental Health

The second day consisted of a number of presentations from member associations mostly focussing on Perinatal Mental Health (PMH). Firstly a Spanish Midwife from Catalonia described a funded project in which by working with men to encourage more of a partnership during childbirth and parenthood, an improvement in women’s health is encouraged. Men volunteer to take part in a serious of workshops in which they are educated about the whole childbearing process but also encouraged to explore their emotions and parenting skills. Issues such as using a clock to identify changes to their days from before parenthood to those as a father, and discussions about fitting in time for their football, and corresponding time for mum to have time for herself, are explored. I remember using this technique with both mum and dad to be in NCT classes. I can imagine the conversations encouraged within that workshop with Spanish men! At the end of the penultimate class, the men are given an egg to care for during the week, to introduce into their lives and bring safely back at the final workshop. Not all eggs are returned! The member associations were enthralled with this workshop and keen to learn more about the workshops. The midwife was delighted to show the evaluations which were all very positive.

We then welcomed two keynote speakers discussing PMH in Europe. The first was Maria Nyman, Director of Mental Health Europe, who identified the very real lack of funding and services in the area of PMH across Europe. She used her own experiences in two countries and with five pregnancies to identify areas where better support could improve the mental health of mothers. Physical care she could not fault but with a little more consideration, and education, she felt that women’s mental health needs could be met. The second keynote speaker came from the Institute of Health Visiting in the UK. Another amazing speaker, she spoke about the initiatives ongoing in the U.K. and the facilities available. We then had brief presentations from Belgium, Slovenia and Ireland After another al fresco lunch, the conversation around PMH continued in workshops in which each country identified where PMH stood in their country. Most admitted that it was either low on the agenda or not considered at all, particularly in those countries in which Midwives were not involved in prenatal and/or postnatal care as the obstetricians were only concerned with physical health. During the next year, this will be considered within the EMA Board who will put to the EU proposals for PMH to be given more attention pan Europe.

This brought the second day to a close and many of the midwives left for home. I stayed on for an extra day, at my own expense, to explore Madrid and enjoy the sun.

Find out more about the European Midwives Association

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