A diet expert who advises midwives on helping mums-to-be to eat healthily has been handed a top award.
Andrea Basu works to dispel baby myths and encourage pregnant women to only “eat for one” without missing out on vital vitamins.
She trains community midwives to ensure that mums-to-be understand how to choose healthy foods, avoid potentially harmful ones and stay active.
A public health dietitian with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), Andrea has now won an award from the British Journal of Midwifery Practice for her contribution to midwifery practice.
She has developed an intense training package to help midwives raise the sensitive issue of being overweight with women who are pregnant. The training scheme has also been incorporated into the courses of student midwives at Bangor University.
In North Wales over half of all women start off pregnancy with a high body weight, and are classified as either overweight or obese – bringing increased risks of miscarriage and health issues for both the unborn baby and the mum.
Research also shows that breastfeeding babies provides the best possible start in life and is protective against overweight and obesity in childhood.
Andrea, who lives in Wrexham, said: “Where possible it is best for mums-to-be to start off at a healthy weight, and gain some weight in pregnancy, but not too much.
“There are lot of myths out there such as the classic ‘eating for two’ theory that needs to be clarified.
“For that reason our training scheme is called Eating For One, Keeping Healthy And Active For Two. Many years ago women were told not to do any exercise during pregnancy and we now know that keeping active is beneficial for both a healthy mother and baby.
“As health professionals we need to offer women the best information available and clearly explain how both she and her family can benefit.
“As dietitians we often say that people can get all the nutrition they need through their diets, but pregnancy is one of those times when It is important to take certain vitamin supplements as well as eat a healthy diet.
“A big part of the training explains about the benefits of taking folic acid and vitamin D supplements before and during pregnancy.”
Andrea added: “It is incredibly humbling to receive this award from the British Journal of Midwifery Practice, and so rewarding to have had the support from my colleagues. I feel that my work is really valued and is making a difference.”
Andrea’s work was targeted at the midwives who are the frontline of ante-natal care across North Wales and she was delighted that so many of them were keen to undergo the training.
Many of them have given feedback saying that it has enhanced their work and helped them get the right message across to expectant mothers.
Bangor University midwifery lecturer Sheila Brown was one of the first to undergo the training developed by Andrea, when she was a Wrexham community midwife.
She said: “As midwives we are often dealing with the increase of BMIs in pregnant women and making them aware not just for pregnancy but for life.
“One of the great things about Andrea’s work is that it is all evidence based and she includes practical advice such as meal planning and price matching which is a big issue for a lot of people.
“A massive part of our job is talking to women about lifestyle and having the training from Andrea had a huge positive impact on my practice.
“A lot of the information was revising the things we knew but some was new and having it all presented by someone with so much knowledge just helps give you the confidence to deliver it.”
A paper was published last year in the British Journal of Midwifery about the effectiveness of the training in helping midwives raise the important issue of healthy weight during pregnancy.
The research was undertaken with Andrea’s colleagues in BCUHB and Professor Lynne Kennedy, the University of Chester’s Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Clinical Sciences, and Professor Karen Tocque.
Professor Kennedy is an advocate of Andrea’s role in spreading the training to midwives across Wales and together they would like to roll this out from the University of Chester.
She said: “Andrea is a phenomenally hard working and dedicated practitioner. Her work has had a significant impact on the knowledge and skills of midwives in helping pregnant women to manage weight during pregnancy.
“This will potentially improve their health, in helping reduce complications and risk of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but also the health of their children and their future health.”
Lynne was able to join Andrea, along with colleague Sarah Powell-Jones who has also supported her throughout, at the Midland Hotel in Manchester to collect the award.
Andrea was honoured as winner of the Contribution of a Non-Midwife to Midwifery Practice category for having made an ‘outstanding contribution to midwifery practice and demonstrated dedication and commitment to the caring of the mother and baby.’
Professor Angela Hopkins, BCUHB’s executive director of nursing, midwifery, therapies and health sciences, said: “Ensuring that children get the best possible start in life is essential to ensuring that they enjoy a healthy life as they grow into adults.
“Key to that is helping women to eat healthily during pregnancy and to manage their weight gain – that in turn leads to children eating well.
“The training that Andrea is carrying out with our community and student midwives will reap benefits both now and in the future.
“I am delighted that she has been honoured with this award by the British Journal of Midwifery Practice, as it is a mark of praise for this innovative work.”