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Midwives: Let’s talk about sex and reproductive health

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      Introduction and Aim

      Despite being primary providers of public health education regarding sexual and reproductive health care, there is limited evidence regarding midwives’ confidence and practices of this important role. The aim of this study was to explore midwives’ confidence and practices around providing education to women on three key areas of sexual and reproductive health: i) contraception and family planning; ii) sexual activity; and iii) sexual health.

      Methods

      A cross-sectional exploratory study was conducted with responses from n=164 midwives (43.1% response rate) working in a public tertiary maternity hospital in Western Australia. The survey included items measuring confidence; method and frequency of practice. Open-ended questions captured qualitative data. Data analysis was conducted using descriptive statistics for quantitative data and content analysis for qualitative data.

      Findings

      Midwives’ age, years of clinical experience (p=0.001) and work setting (p=0.032) were all significantly associated with the confidence to provide education on sexual activity. Most (92.1%) midwives indicated that they wanted further education, with a preference for online learning. Lack of time, knowledge and language barriers were key factors preventing education.

      Discussion

      Midwives’ provision of education to women is critical for improving health literacy and health outcomes for women and their families. Results impress the importance of including sexual and reproductive health education in entry to registration courses and the importance of continuing professional development.

      Conclusion

      Evidence from this novel study offers utility for leaders and educators in midwifery to prepare and equip midwives to fulfil this important primary and public health role of providing sexual and reproductive health care. Attending to identified professional development needs of midwives, enables practitioners to work to their full scope of practice providing comprehensive care to women and their families.
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