Maternity care – setting up the highest standard across Europe


Survival rates have improved over the last 15 years, but there are now concerns about iatrogenic morbidity, which occurs as a result of preventable harm done either by medical treatment or advice.

The different cultures and philosophies related to maternity care across Europe also mark significant differences in care organization, uptake and outcomes.

Researchers involved in COST Action IS0907 – Childbirth Cultures, Concerns, and Consequences: Creating a dynamic EU framework for optimal maternity care – are building on such differences to advance scientific knowledge and therefore achieve the highest standard in European maternity care and its outcomes, by examining practices, patients and the circumstances in which patients are treated.

With a female participation of over 80%, and 60% early stage researchers (ESR), from the very beginning the Action has engaged especially with clinical staff, service users and policy makers. This has led to stakeholder events in Sweden, Switzerland, and Portugal, all of which have proven catalytic for further improving maternity care in those countries.

As a result, the Action has produced a series of academic papers and presentations reflecting a paradigmatic turn in scientific thinking on best practices in the context of childbirth and beyond. Such papers and presentations examine the nature and implications of viewing childbirth as essentially salutogenic (that is, focusing on wellbeing, while efficiently responding to true pathology), rather than routinely pathogenic – looking for and proactively treating potential or existing problems in both ill and healthy women and infants.

A key scientific activity of the Action is a social media survey that builds on salutogenesis, complexity and stakeholder engagement, investigating and communicating best practices through the use of new media. Targeting women who have given birth over the last 5 years, the survey enabled respondents to offer feedback on their first labour experience, and what improvements could be brought about. The findings will be mapped to a parallel survey of key clinical informants and to a EU protocol review survey. Moreover, geo-mapping will show how best practices are spread around Europe, setting the grounds for further exchanges and learning visits beyond the Action’s lifetime. The links provided in the survey will also allow women to network internationally and share experiences, gradually leading to local and political involvement in improving maternity care. The survey, translated in several Action members’ languages, will soon be launched on social fora across the Action’s representedcountries and beyond.

The EU-funded research project Optibirth also grew as a result of the Action’s networking activities. The project examines methods to improve the quality of clinical practice in maternity care in three European countries, based on the complex salutogenic paradigm developed during the Action. Most importantly, the project bases its quality improvement work on stakeholder engagement via social media, focusing on clinical staff and women beneficiaries. This reflects the Action’s work, most of which is undertaken using social media engagement.

More than 200 people are expected to attend the Action’s final conference scheduled for April 2014 in Brussels, ranging from scientists, clinicians, maternity services managers to policy makers and service users. The Conference will be the launchpad for the Action’s ultimate aim -Bringing maternity care across all Europe to the highest standard.

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