Maternity services at Epsom and St Helier hospitals will be investing over £46,000 in additional services and support for pregnant women with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 and above, who may be at higher risk of experiencing complications.
BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify underweight, overweight and obesity in adults, with those whose BMI is over 30 classified as ‘obese’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Katherina Gross-Gibbs, Specialist Midwife, explained: “Being overweight or obese can have a number of implications on people’s health and wellbeing, including pregnant women. Women with a BMI of over 30 are considered higher risk, which means they are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy or labour.
“The Cedar Clinic is our successful midwife-led weight management service, set up to support women with a BMI over 35 during their pregnancy with diet and lifestyle advice, extra investigations and additional consultant appointments. One of the key aims of the clinic is to empower women to make life-long lifestyle changes. We have always been incredibly proud of the service we offer, but the team and I felt that there was a need – and an opportunity – to expand the service and increase the number of women we are able to help.”
In order to achieve their goal, Katherina and Senior Midwife Nicola Young, submitted a comprehensive bid to the Burdett Trust Maternity and Childhood Obesity Empowerment Programme (an independent charitable trust dedicated to promoting and advancing education, research and training within nursing and other healthcare professions), entitled ‘Optimal health for pregnant women – the key to the nation’s future’. The bid was so well received that the team were granted the full amount they requested, an impressive £46,282.
Nicola said: “Our hospitals care for around 5,000 pregnant women a year, 20% of whom have a BMI of 30 and above, putting them in the higher risk category. Due to the significant proportion of obese women in the area, we were only able to provide specialised services, including the ground-breaking Cedar Clinic, to women at the highest risk (BMI above 35), which accounts for approximately 200 women per year.
“Previously, we were not able to offer women with a BMI of 30-35 any extra health input. Now, thanks to the money we have secured, they will be offered pedometers, sponsored exercise classes and comprehensive diet and lifestyle information leaflets. They will be invited to attend infant feeding sessions in addition to preparation for parenthood classes. We have also been able to build on the existing service provided to women with a BMI of more than 35, and include a referral to Slimming World which will be sponsored by the project, providing funding for free membership for 12 weeks.
Katherina added: “We have developed a multi-methodical approach, which will allow us to deliver more individualised care and offer the most appropriate support. It is really exciting to have such a great range of positive tools to offer our women, including advice from a dietitian and a range of specialist classes which not only improve health, but present social opportunities and support from other pregnant women.
“I believe that pregnancy provides women with the incentive and motivation to make lifestyle changes, with both immediate and long-term effects for themselves and their family. Midwives have a unique role in advising and supporting women at a time when they are most receptive and likely to engage and, in doing so, helping every child to have the best possible start in life. The aim is to actively support women to try lifestyles changes which will help to reduce these risks, and to give them the knowledge and support to continue these changes beyond pregnancy.”
Chief Nurse Charlotte Hall, who is responsible for all nursing and midwifery care provided at the hospitals, said: “I am so proud of the success of the bid made to the Burdett Trust. A huge amount of work went into developing the bid, with the team involved demonstrating perfectly the trust’s commitment to deliver great care to every patient, every day. The team are absolutely delighted, and I am very excited to see the difference all of this wonderful investment will make to the women and families we care for.”