Cultural curiosity in maternity

Guest blog from Teri Gavin-Jones

Home > Teri Gavin-Jones discusses cultural curiosity in maternity

Teri Gavin-Jones is a midwife, midwife educator and senior clinical lead for Suffolk and North East Essex Local Maternity and Neonatal System. She has authored two books on the evidence for hypnosis in childbirth and leads on choice and personalisation, and equity within maternity. 

In a guest blog for the Baby Friendly Initiative, Teri Gavin-Jones discusses cultural curiosity in maternity care:

At the Suffolk and North East Essex Local Maternity and Neonatal System, our journey of putting the community front and centre has led to the creation of a suite of resources which use the medium of film to spotlight the importance of cultural curiosity.

The inspiration for the project stemmed from a request from NHS England to produce an equity and equality scoping document to detail our commitment to improving health inequalities.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are what drives us in Suffolk and North East Essex. We have created a maternity partnership using the social prescribing model, with community groups leading and directing our service.

Being a midwife on the shop floor, it’s difficult to take the time to ‘look up’ and see what is going on. But when I did, I was amazed at the many organisations that were embedded in the community and which offered support with preconception, pregnancy and after birth.

I spent time gathering information on what was happening in the local community and hearing from people from marginalised and vulnerable backgrounds. I focused on building trust, understanding need, and asking individuals to describe their experiences in maternity and what we could do to improve. I also carried out a survey with staff in order to understand their experiences.

The feedback I received from within different communities was clear: “We want a platform to use our voice. We want to tell our stories.” The feedback from staff was: “We want to ensure we do not offend.”

We wondered: how do we help to amplify these voices?

And we decided that the best way to start was to use the medium of film.

We soon booked a studio, found a filmmaker, and spent 7 days filming 24 interviews. These were eventually compiled into 11 films. There are messages and learnings for everyone in these films – together they truly constitute a repository of community voices.

A recurring theme that comes out of the videos is: It’s okay to ask. Let’s open up the conversation and be what we now call ‘culturally curious’.

Providing safety in maternity is key. We are helping to improve safety by improving communication, which comes back to being culturally aware. It’s very positive that we have noticed an increase in trust between staff and the communities we care for. The films have been the conduit to build those relationships.

I think it’s important that we take away the fear for those in the NHS – we need to focus on embracing conversations and increasing cultural curiosity.

So far, the videos have been used by a variety of services and organisations (universities, public health, maternity staff, etc) and reached over 12 countries.


With thanks to Teri Gavin-Jones for providing this guest blog. 


About the Baby Friendly Initiative

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Going Baby Friendly: Maternity, Neonatal, Health Visiting & Children's Centres

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