What do you do, Sharon?

Sharon is the Lead Midwife for the recently established Southeast London Maternal Medicine Network (MMN)

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

""May 2023

How long have you been a midwife and what’s your career journey been to date?

I’ve been a midwife for over 25 years, and throughout my career, I have amassed a significant amount of experience supporting people with complex medical conditions during their pregnancies. 

This experience started with my involvement in a specialist clinic supporting women and their families with haemoglobinopathies. These are a group of disorders that affect red blood cells, such as sickle cell disease and thalassaemia. 

When working as a delivery suite co-ordinator, I maintained input in the haemoglobinopathy clinic. Working in the delivery suite was my happy place. What’s more, I rapidly developed my knowledge and skills in this area. It was truly humbling supporting pregnant women, birthing people and their families and to be part of one of the most important events in their lifetime. It was also so rewarding to support student midwives and newly qualified midwives and see them excel.

Over the years, I have done several post graduate courses, gone into management and developed my leadership skills. It’s been important to continue working clinically while working as a manager and leader – this has helped me both to maintain my clinical skills and credibility as a clinician.

I am proud that I was one of the first midwives appointed to the role of fetal monitoring midwife. This role gave me the opportunity to implement extensive change in the management of cardiotocographs (CTG), tests used during pregnancy to monitor fetal heart rate and uterine contractions. This work led to a significant reduction in the hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) rates. This is when a baby’s brain does not receive enough oxygen and/or blood flow around the time of their birth and is one of the most serious birth complications in full-term infants. It was great to contribute to improvements in this area.

I have continued to grow as a leader over the years. As I was previously appointed as a supervisor of midwives, I transitioned to become a professional midwifery advocate (PMA) in 2015. A few years later, I took on the role as consultant midwife for complexity and also embarked on a MSc in Advanced Clinical Practice, which has led to me becoming a non-medical prescriber.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you during your midwifery career?

Always ask if you don’t know, as nobody knows it all.

What is your current role and what does it involve?

I am now the lead midwife for the recently established South East London (SEL) Maternal Medicine Network (MMN), which covers University Hospital Lewisham, Queen Elizabeth Woolwich, Princess Royal University Hospital, King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill and St Thomas’ Hospital.

The SEL MMN is a network of professionals working together to improve access for all pregnant or recently pregnant women and birthing people with complex medical conditions to expert medical advice, and reduce inequity for this growing group.

Midwifery is a key component of the network. As the lead midwife, I co-ordinate midwifery-led models of care, for women and birthing people with medical complexity at all sites. This includes running education sessions, and developing guidelines as well as engaging with community groups, primary care teams, emergency departments, anaesthetists, haematologists and others.

What is important about the care provided in the specialist centre?

The centre provides the specialist advice and care for the most complex and highest risk pregnant women and birthing people. All specialist services for those with the most complex needs are co-located at the centre, ensuring people get rapid and coordinated access to all the support they need, when they need it.  

Why is it so important to address health inequalities?

It’s the right thing to do. When we address the inequalities that exist for pregnant women and birthing people we are improving the outcomes and quality of life for many individuals. Getting this right will also lead to a reduction in costs and benefits the wider community and the economy.

What work have you been doing within the FiveXMore campaign?

I’ve been supporting the work of Five X More, a grassroots organisation set up by two Black mothers, Clo and Tinuke, who are committed to improving maternal health outcomes for black women and birthing people in the UK. I’ve helped to support the implementation of pregnancy booklet wallets developed for Black women and birthing people, which include specific information to empower them before, during and after pregnancy.

I have also presented at the Black Maternal Health All-Party Parliamentary Group to raise awareness among MPs of Five X More’s Black Maternal Health Awareness Week. The week is dedicated to raising awareness about the disparities in maternal outcomes for Black women and birthing people. It took place this year between 24-30 April with the important theme of Respectful Maternity Care.

What do you most love about being a midwife?

Quite simply, the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of so many people.

Search Guy’s and St Thomas’ existing midwifery vacancies

Find out more about Guy’s and St Thomas’ maternity services

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.