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Womb to World Conference 2014

Creating community around birth: communication that makes a difference

Venue: Addenbrookes, Cambridge
Saturday 13 September 2014

Birthlight’s series of thematic day conferences ‘From Womb to World’ have been held in Cambridge since October 2010. They develop the Birthlight international conferences ‘Visions of Infant Joy’ (2006) and ‘Light on Parenting’ (2012) with focussed meetings including interdisciplinary research perspectives.

The aim is to bring together scientists, doctors and midwives, academic researchers, practitioners involved in maternity care in the hospital or in the community and also interested parents in order to explore apparent gaps between research and practice. Basically, why is the extensive research on the transition of babies from womb to world not translated into more widespread clinical and social applications? By improving communication across disciplines, thematic conferences can foster a greater understanding of the evidence on which care needs to be based as well as of social constraints for implementation of findings.

From the 2008 NICE guidelines to recent initiatives such as 1001 Days, the link between maternity care services and community support has often been mentioned but rarely implemented. Birthlight stems from community grassroots in Cambridge. Since the 1980s our aim has been to facilitate positive interactions between pregnant women, new mothers and new families, and care providers both in hospitals and in the community. We are now a wider circle ‘creating community’ in many different parts of the world. Our methods have evolved and improved but our ethos is unchanged. Scientific research has generated a great deal of evidence about the long-term implications of happy experiences of pregnancy, birth and early years for new families in society. This day conference aims to explore a few simple and practical ways to enhance communication between maternity professionals and new families, both before and after babies are born.

This day was packed full with relevant and applicable knowledge, invaluable to Birthlight teachers as well as to doulas and midwives.

Speakers included:

Alison Baum

Alison Baum is the CEO and Founder of Best Beginnings, which she set up in 2006 as a catalyst for change to reduce child health inequalities in the UK. Best Beginnings works collaboratively, innovatively and from the evidence base to help parents make positive healthcare choices and enable professionals to support those choices. Using her leadership and executive production experience, Alison has pioneered the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.

Sheena Byron OBE

Sheena Byrom is a practising midwife, and worked within the NHS for more than 35 years. Sheena was one of the UK’s first consultant midwives, and successfully helped to lead the development of three birth centres in East Lancashire. She currently chairs the Royal College of Midwives Campaign for Normal Birth, and lectures nationally on midwifery and childbirth related topics. Sheena is the Patron of StudentMidwife.Net and a Trustee of the Iolanthe Midwifery Trust.


Emma Eaton

Emma Eaton completed her BSc. Hon. at Trent University in Canada in 2007. She went on to work in residential care with children in the foster care system and in anxiety research until being accepted for her doctorate in clinical psychology in 2010 in England. Emma specialized in trauma, maternity and working with women, and graduated dually with her doctorate from Keele and Staffordshire Universities in 2013. Emma's work has been presented in conferences across England, and Emma continues to be active in consulting with research internationally.  

Françoise Barbira Freedman

The Founder and Director of Birthlight, Françoise Barbira Freedman is a medical anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, where she does research and teaches as an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology.

After spending long periods of fieldwork in Peruvian Amazonia, including two pregnancies and stays with her young family, she was inspired to share the gentle approach to parenting of her Amazonian hosts among friends in the UK. As a trained yoga teacher and therapist, Françoise used the idiom of yoga to create an original programmer of movements and nurturing relaxation for mothers to be and new mothers with their babies.

Kicki Hansard

Kicki Hansard,  was born in a small town called Asele in Swedish Lapland, the magical land of  the midnight sun and the northern lights.  She moved to England in 1990 and has two girls born 1998 and 2000 at Watford General Hospital.

She trained as a Legal Secretary but was working in the IT industry before she had children and was lucky enough to be able to stay at home to care for them. She came across the word “doula” in a Sunday Magazine and immediately felt that this was something she wanted to do. Having been away from her mother at her own births she feels strongly about being there for others when they embark on the journey of motherhood.

Joanna Hawthorne

Psychologist, Ph.D., Director and Trainer, Brazelton Centre UK, Cambridge and Associate member, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge

Joanna is a Psychologist whose Ph.D. research was about supporting parents of pre-term and ill babies in neonatal units. Since then, she has worked on other studies, including parenting in neonatal units and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy and maternal anxiety.  Her area of expertise is in understanding baby behaviour from birth-three months old and supporting parent-infant relationships. 

Emily Hills

Emily Hills is a Clinical Specialist Neonatal Occupational Therapist at Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust. Emily graduated as an Occupational therapist from Brunel University in 2001 and has worked in a variety of paediatric settings.

Emily currently works at the “Starlight” neonatal unit at Barnet Hospital, as the only therapist. She leads on developmental care, neurodevelopmental assessment and developmental interventions; including the follow-up after discharge.

Dr Amali Lokugamage

Dr Amali Lokugamage MBChB, BSc, MSc (Epidemiology), MD, FRCOG is a Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in London, UK. She has over 24 years of experience in the speciality. Her main clinical interests lie in medical gynaecology and general obstetrics with expertise in normalising birth. She has authored an acclaimed book called The Heart in the Womb: An Exploration of the Roots of Human Love and Social Cohesion which Ina May Gaskin has called “the childbirth without fear of the 21st century”.

Professor Lesley Page

Lesley Page is president of the Royal College of Midwives. She was the first professor of midwifery in the UK at Thames Valley University and Queen Charlotte’s Hospital. She is a renowned international academic, advocate and activist for midwives, mothers and babies with more than 32 years’ midwifery experience. Her accomplished career has encompassed clinical practice, management and leadership, academic and policy work. She has practised midwifery in the community, hospital and home birth settings and continues to practise in Oxfordshire.

David Savva

David Savva is a film maker and communications facilitator. He has extensive experience both teaching and providing technical support for media performance, delivering to a wide range of people, including businessmen, medics, lawyers, financiers and young people. 



Elly Taylor

Elly Taylor is an Australian Relationship counsellor, perinatal researcher and author. Her passion is supporting the relationship bond and emotional health of mothers and fathers during the perinatal period to reduce the risk for postpartum mood disorders, facilitate whole family bonding and create healthy, stable families right from the very beginning.