MRI posted 3 May, 2024

Meet the new midwives of Manchester

After three years of studying, one of our newly qualified midwives discuss how it feels to evolve from student life, to caring for women and families across Manchester

There are currently approximately over 35,000 midwives in England. Sophie Glynn and Jenna Spence have both recently started their careers at Saint Mary’s maternity units, ran by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, and have stepped up from the classroom to the ward as newly qualified midwives.  

Sophie moved back to her home in Oldham after graduating from The University of Lincoln in July 2023 with her heart set on becoming a Midwife. She said: “I always knew I wanted to go into healthcare, and I definitely had a calling.  

“By 16 I knew I wanted to be a midwife. I liked the idea of supporting women throughout pregnancy. It’s a journey which many women go through, and your role is to help and advocate their decisions”.   

Meanwhile Jenna discovered her passion for midwifery after she began working on the hospital ward. She studied at The University of Bolton and completed her degree in January 2024 and along the way, she had to face some of her fears.  

She said: “I actually studied to be a nurse for a year and worked in maternity units on bank shifts. I transferred to a midwifery course because I enjoyed it a lot more. The women you care for are not sick, they are pregnant, so they have much more autonomy in their care.   

“Funnily enough, I had a very bad phobia of needles, so my family were really surprised that I went into healthcare. I managed to overcome this with lots of practice training at university and I now even let people practice on me.”   

A degree in midwifery combines classroom learning with clinical experience in practice. This helps students put theory into practice so that newly qualified midwives can start with as much knowledge and experience as possible. Once qualified, they then work in rotation between antenatal, labour and postnatal settings so they see women in every stage of their pregnancy and birth continuum.   

Sophie, who works at North Manchester General Hospital, said: “At university you complete six weeks in placement, then six weeks in the classroom to focus on the theory which repeats throughout the years. You learn the basics, but the majority of learning is done on the job.  

“As a student, antenatal clinics were probably my weakest area, but I really enjoy it now because it means that you see a woman throughout her pregnancy and see her full journey. Now that I’ve settled into the role, I can make better relationships with the women because it’s just me with the women during the appointments”.   

Jenna works at Saint Mary’s Hospital on Oxford Road campus, which hosts multiple dedicated centres for women with various pre-pregnancy medical conditions. She said: “There are so many specialist clinics for women, including ones for women with high BMI, cardiac or neurological problems. I wasn’t taught about these at university, but I find that aspect of midwifery really interesting”.   

To qualify, midwives assist with 40 natural births without medical intervention. Sophie said: “The first natural birth I helped with was a really positive experience. I couldn’t believe that this is something that women do all the time, and this is how life is created. I had a little tear in my eye; it’s the most amazing thing I‘ve ever seen. 

“I want to try specialising in a birth centre, which cares for women who have low risk births. I enjoy the aspect of one-to-one care and I’m keen on educating women on why looking into water births and different positions can be beneficial to their experience.   

On the other hand, Jenna wants to expand her skills into research and surgical interventions. She said: “At university, I scrubbed up and assisted with the role of supporting the baby following its birth via caesarean section. When the woman gave birth, I held the baby while the surgeons clamped the cord, which I found really interesting.   

“Eventually, I would like to specialise in fertility research, working in a fetal or maternal medicine units to figure out why some women struggle to conceive. Saint Mary’s Hospital is really unique because it has incredible research facilities meaning that you can be at the forefront of making decisions.”  

Despite only being at the beginning of her career, there are already moments at work which have resonated with Sophie. She said: “There was one woman who gave birth through emergency c-section and the baby was admitted to neonatal after their heart rate dropped.   

“I had a good relationship with the mother, so I kept visiting her. I used to give her clexane injection, which is used to prevent maternal blood clotting following hospital procedures, because she hated doing it herself. I could tell that she really appreciated it. It was a crazy situation to be in for her but it’s so important that you keep cool”.   

Similar to any job, it is important to have a good support network both in and outside of work to manage the transition from being a student to working life. Jenna said: “I have a friend who is a midwife in a different hospital, and we ring a few times a week on our way to work to chat about our experiences. It’s so nice to have people who understand.   

“As I’m still new, I have to ask questions everyday so I can keep learning; but nothing is too much for the people that I work with. I’m really proud to be a midwife. The patients you treat are always grateful and if you are compassionate, every interaction is impactful”.   

Midwives at Saint Mary’s are supported by a team of retention midwives at each of their sites. A significant part of their role involves recruitment and encouraging professional development of staff.   

Kate Bellis, a retention midwife at North Manchester General Hospital, said: “I really enjoy helping newly qualified midwives because they are just at the start of their journey and, nowadays, there are so many learning opportunities in different fields.  

“It’s exciting that Sophie and Jenna are already thinking about their future in midwifery, and I’m lucky to be able to support their career paths and see where it takes them”.  

Learn more about our retention midwives

Interested in learning more about our retention midwives? Watch the video below to learn more about their unique role…