Almost 80% of women use the internet for health information for themselves and their babies – but how do we know that the information we are accessing is correct? A recent study also showed that one in five women use emergency services postnatally because they can’t access a midwife. With our NHS stretched to its limit and people unable to access care, how can we make sure mums and babies are getting the correct information that will keep them all safe? Here, Hannah Harvey, Founder of Ask The Midwife, tells us about how her e-health service is changing maternity care for the better.
“It’s really difficult, as midwives we want to provide round-the-clock care, to spend two or three hours with a new mum teaching her how to breastfeed, and offering the other support she needs, but there’s just not the capacity to do it. We’ve got to look at other ways of helping people,” she said.
It was this challenge, alongside spotting a review that found high numbers of pregnant women use the internet to search for advice, that prompted Hannah to take matters into her own hands. In July 2016, she launched Ask The Midwife, an app and online platform that enables mums-to-be to contact midwives for advice.
“I wanted to create something where users could ask questions and get a fast response from a midwife, instead of using Google or parenting forums, where you’re not getting professional advice. I saw it as a way of helping the women, somewhere they could go and access advice and the extra care they needed and they wanted. It’s also a platform to alleviate the pressure on the NHS and the midwives working in the community and the hospitals, who don’t have the time to spend with people who might want a bit more help with their new-born baby.”
We were so intrigued to hear about Ask The Midwife, we asked Hannah some more questions.
Can you describe the Ask the Midwife service to me Hannah?
"Ask The Midwife is the UK’s first health advice app and website designed and run be registered midwives for women and their families. You can download the app, ask any questions you have about pregnancy, birth and beyond and get a fast, professional and friendly response from a registered midwife."
Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to do this?
"I have been a midwife for six years, and have always had an interest in digital health and how it can benefit women and families. I wanted to create a solution that would mean everyone had access to professional advice online. In my local hospital, I developed Facebook groups and a Twitter page to improve maternity user experience, and won an innovation award for it in 2014. Following on from that, I wanted to be able to offer digital health services to users across the whole of the UK, and hopefully internationally at some point as well. This is how Ask The Midwife was born!"
Why do you think this App is needed right now?
"We live in a time now where everyone has smart phones, and people use social media and digital services like apps and web sites all the time. Digital health is a brand-new phenomenon, but one that is taking off at a drastic rate, because it is fast, easily accessible and credible. We have already been able to offer reassurance and guidance to so many expectant parents, and it is becoming evident how much a service like this is needed, by how quickly the app and website has taken off and how many people are using it."
Is any question too small or silly?
"No question is too small or silly for us. We actually get lots of questions that I have never been asked as a midwife in clinical practice, which suggests to me that there are questions that women feel are too silly/small to ask face to face, so it is really great to see them being asked via Ask The Midwife. It means we are providing a service that is needed, and people can discuss their anxieties and worries with a professional and have the reassurance they need. If you think your question is silly, it isn’t. We will always be at the other end of the phone waiting to answer any questions you have, big or small."
How can people use Ask The Midwife, and what will they pay for it?
"The app is free to download on iOS. Once you have downloaded the app, you get one free question and then after that you can pay anything from £0.99 up to £24.99. We have payment options for everyone and if you don’t have an iPhone you can access the same services via our website. You can find our website here."
To find out more head to www.askthemidwife.co.uk or download the Ask The Midwife app in the App Store.