I had a slight meltdown on labour ward the other day, a meltdown that resulted in an argument between me and….. a computer system. Yea we’ve all been there, I’m sure many of you can relate to this.
There seems to be more and more machines and computer systems on labour ward these days, all designed to ‘help’ us do our jobs more safely and more efficiently (that’s if you can remember all your passwords!) Number one is the maternity computer system, that holds all the patient details, and where we record everything about a woman’s labour. You need your username and password to use this system. Then you need a different username and password on a different computer system to request blood tests and check results. Another username and password to use the fetal blood sample machine, another to use the glucometer machine, another for the urinalysis machine… the list goes on and on. Hang on a minute, all this technology just to have a baby??!!! Really??
My meltdown with the computer began when I entered a request for a blood test on the computer system for a woman I was looking after, and the compu’er said no! So not only did I need to ask permission from the computer to do the blood test in the first place, it then told me NO! It told me I had already requested this test today on this patient and was I really sure that I wanted to repeat this test again. Now hang on a minute, I’ve got a computer questioning my decision to do a blood test, surely this can’t be right, what’s next? The computer telling me that the woman’s labour is taking too long and she should be given drugs to speed it up? This will probably happen in the future, I kid you not (shudders). So after muttering ‘bloody computers’ under my breath I stomped off to the staff room for a cuppa and a Jaffa cake and had a flick through my iPhone whilst continuing to moan about computers taking over the world (oh the irony!)
But let’s face it; women did manage years ago to give birth without all of this. Please take me back to ‘call the midwife days’ when all midwives needed were a pair of gloves, clamps and scissors to cut the cord and a pen and paper to jot down the crucial details – time of birth, weight, sex of the baby. Job done. I’m pretty sure that in the not too distant future, as well as carrying a pair of gloves in their pockets, all midwives will be carrying ipads to input everything they say and do as they go. Oh well, that’ll be one more thing that’ll get dropped in the birth pool no doubt (along with the pagers, drug cupboard keys, and the fetal heart monitors!)
Of course there’s no stopping progress and I know we need to embrace these changes, but we’re talking about birth here not a bank transaction. Birth is a spiritual moment that brings people together. Birth brings everyone in its presence into the ‘present’ and reminds you of what’s really important in life. The definition of the word midwife is ‘with woman’ not ‘with computer’. If the midwife is interacting with the computers and all the other machines around her then she’s not interacting with the woman, and us midwives know that a woman in labour needs continual emotional support more than anything else, and that’s something a machine cannot provide.
So is all this technology in the birth room actually more of a hindrance than a help? Well maybe one day there won’t be any need for us midwives at all cos maybe there will be another machine designed to catch all the babies too!