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Thai midwife flies into Gold Coast to graduate with PhD


Sharlene King
17 May 2013
A Thai midwife who aims to revolutionise health care for pregnant women in her home country will be the recipient of a PhD at Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast graduations at the Tweed Civic Centre on Saturday (May 18).

Peeranan Wisanskoonwong, who is a senior midwifery lecturer at Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok, will be one of three PhD graduates at the ceremony. Two further higher degrees, Doctorates of Business Administration, will also be awarded on Saturday, with the higher degrees among 106 graduands who will receive their awards from the University’s Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC.

Ms Wisanskoonwong studied the effect of midwifery primary health care groups on pregnant women to deter early labour, which is a serious issue in Thailand.

“In Thailand, midwifery is practised in a medicalised environment and encompasses working with interventions relying on medical technology, such as electronic foetal monitoring, rather than valuing midwifery practices that are more holistically oriented, such as continuity of care,” she said.

“Preterm birth is a serious problem in Thailand and I believe the medicalised approaches to this addresses the symptoms of the problem only, without attending to the woman’s real health needs. There are no research papers about midwifery practice in Thailand and the midwife’s role in the antenatal clinic in preventing preterm births. Most of the previous research relates to the use of medication in preterm labour to inhibit preterm birth. Therefore, current midwifery practice is based on what medical treatment the woman is receiving.”

Ms Wisanskoonwong determined that there needed to be more cooperation between midwives and pregnant women from a holistic perspective. She believed that if midwives worked effectively with the prospective mothers that problems could be identified early and strategies put in place to help avoid the onset of preterm labour.

“The midwifery primary health care group of 14 women that I studied were from socio-economically disadvantaged groups. They were at increased risk of preterm birth due to a number of factors including health, nutrition, lack of access to culturally appropriate health care, domestic violence, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions and low body mass index as well as smoking and alcohol and the use of other drugs,” she said.

“However, all of the women who attended health care groups improved their health status. When the women have their physiological, safety, security, love, belongingness and self esteem needs met, their psychological stress is reduced, their holistic health status improves and this increases their ability to carry their pregnancies to term. Of the 14 babies born, only three were born before term and no baby was born before the 35th week of gestation, which is remarkable because these were all women at medically defined increased risk of preterm birth. No baby needed neonatal intensive care unit admission, a probable significant saving to the health care system and to the families in the short, medium and long term. For women who are at increased risk, improving their holistic health by optimising their health empowerment is the best way to prevent preterm births.”

Ms Wisanskoonwong hopes to eventually roll out the midwifery health care groups throughout Thailand.

The occasional speaker for the Gold Coast graduation will be Ian Langdon, the chair of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Services Board.

The graduation ceremony, which is just the second one for the Gold Coast campus, starts at 11am.

Photo: Peeranan Wisanskoonwong.