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Case study: “Seeing all these midwives coming together is really inspiring” – East of England midwives reflect on the importance of the region’s research community

“The network is amplifying how much talent there is within the East of England, and we really need to champion the fantastic work that midwives are doing across the region.”

International Day of the Midwife is annually celebrated on 5 May, and it recognises the efforts of midwives from all over the world and celebrates their work and contribution to maternal and newborn health.

Two midwives from Norwich are leading a community of midwives and health professionals to strengthen reproductive and childbirth research across the East of England.

Luisa Lyons is a Research Midwife at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) and Research Midwife Champion for the NIHR CRN East of England. Dr Kelda Folliard is a Specialist Midwife at NNUH and Lecturer at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Luisa and Kelda’s research journeys

Luisa qualified as a midwife in 2001 and, since then, specialised as a lactation consultant in 2007, and as a tongue-tie specialist in 2011. Luisa’s first introduction to research came through working on a large-scale study looking into tongue-tie.

This experience inspired Luisa to take on the role of a Research Midwife in late 2022, and in the summer of 2023, she became CRN East of England’s Research Midwife Champion.

The Research Midwife Champions are a group of midwives and nurses from across local CRNs in England who work together to provide expert support to colleagues, researchers, universities, and NHS trusts planning to deliver reproductive health and childbirth research.

Kelda qualified as a midwife in 2008 and has been involved in research throughout her career. In 2018, her career moved into perinatal mental health, the focus of her doctorate, which she completed in 2023.

It was Kelda’s research into the lived experience of perinatal anxiety that led her to start a midwifery research group at NNUH in 2021. This soon expanded into other Norfolk-based NHS trusts, and now encompasses colleagues across the entire East of England region. Kelda said:

“I wanted to create a forum for midwives to be able to come together and engage with other midwives with an interest in research. I recognised that when I first started my career, there wasn't really anybody who was a role model that I could go to for advice, so I wanted to create a community that facilitated that for other people.”

East of England Midwifery Research Network

The East of England Midwifery Research Network, which has around 120 members from NHS trusts and Higher Education Institutions across the region, is supporting midwives and raising the profile of midwifery research.

The group meet regularly throughout the year and their aim is to foster a research-active community, encourage collaboration , provide education, and help to build strategic capacity and capability.

Kelda said: “The network is amplifying how much talent there is within the East of England, and we really need to champion the fantastic work that midwives are doing across the region.”

Luisa added: “It is such an exciting community that Kelda has created, and to play a part in that is amazing. Seeing all these midwives coming together is really inspiring.”

Most rewarding research moments

Alongside her NIHR role, Luisa’s research currently focuses on stillbirth and neonatal death. She said:

“I'm quite a latecomer to research, but I'm very passionate about it. My research into stillbirth is heartbreaking and poignant, as I’m working with women who are giving up their time and their energy after they've lost a baby. A lot of research doesn't directly benefit the person taking part in that research trial, it benefits future women – it’s very altruistic.”

For Kelda, alongside forming the network, completing her doctorate has been one of the highlights of her research career. She said:

“My doctorate was a personal ambition that I had for so long. I'm passionate about midwives being able to work in research and undertake their own research, so hopefully I’m able to be a role model to them.

“I’m currently disseminating my research findings, and I’m remembering the women who gave up their time to take part in it. Their voices wouldn't have been heard without research, and increasing people's understanding of perinatal anxiety is hugely rewarding.”

Developing your research career

Luisa’s advice to any midwives, including students, is to shadow research midwives like herself to find out more about what they do. 

Kelda added: “We are very lucky to have the East of England Midwifery Research Network that you can engage with. There are so many different routes into research, and the network is there to help people on those first steps, or at any stage of their journey.”

You can find out more about the East of England Midwifery Research Network by emailing