UCLan midwife expert takes her skills across Atlantic

Sue Downe

Sue Downe

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A midwife has been sharing her birthing knowledge with experts in Canada.

University of Central Lancashire midwifery professor Soo Downe was invited to the University of British Columbia to share her extensive research into childbirth trends and promote research into the nature and consequences of normal birth, with minimal medical or technological intervention.

As the first visiting scholar in this field, Soo visited hospitals in Vancouver as well as sharing her research within the university, and in a public lecture.

Soo was a midwife for 15 years before moving into higher education.

She joined UCLan in 2001 when she set up the Midwifery Studies Research Unit and now leads the Research in Childbirth and Health group at the University.

Soo is well known for promoting research into “normal birth” (with little medical or technological intervention, such as Caesarean sections, labour induction, drugs, episiotomies and antibiotics.)

And she believes that the evidence supports more births at home, or in midwife led units out of hospital, for healthy women and babies.

It was her research which led to the UCB appointing her as the first ever international visiting scholar for a new endowed scholarship programme, the Elaine Carty Scholarship programme.

As a direct result she went over to talk to academics and give lectures. Soo said: “Getting childbirth right is profoundly important for the wellbeing of families, and for future generations.

“While I have always believed that birth with no or minimal intervention is ideal if mother and baby are healthy, recent exciting evidence from epigenetics seems to suggest that there is biological evidence for the impact of what happens during labour and birth on the way genes might be expressed for the child, in infancy and in adulthood, and then for their own children.”

The Canadians were very impressed with Soo and the director of midwifery at UBC Michelle Butler said: “We hope that her visit and insights into normalising birth stimulated debate, encouraged practitioners, researchers and students in British Columbia to reflect on how the work that they do impacts on birth outcomes.”