University of Huddersfield undergraduate Megan Critchlow was recently chosen as the only student from the UK to represent the country at the prestigious International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Congress 2023 in Bali.

Megan, who has just started her third year, was joined at the Congress by the university’s Dr Amanda Firth, senior lecturer in midwifery.

Dr Firth presented her findings from her PhD that has researched mental health issues around pregnancy and the postnatal period for refugee and asylum-seeking women.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) ran a competition to allow one UK student to attend the Congress, the first since 2017 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Megan’s passionate statement about current challenges in midwifery, how it is being affected by the NHS staffing crisis and a need for more female empowerment in midwifery saw her rewarded with the chance to attend the Bali congress.

“Every woman in every country is entitled to an excellent level of care, wherever they are,” said Megan. “It is a human right to receive good care, be safe and as students and healthcare professionals we need to shout about that.”

Megan’s time at the three-day Congress saw her help on the RCM’s information stand, write a blog about her experience and have the honour of carrying the British flag into the opening ceremony in front of hundreds of delegates.

“It was surreal, and genuinely incredible,” said Megan. “I loved every minute and I still get goosebumps about it. It is a huge event and was the first for six years. I loved working on the RCM stand, although I was very nervous but the event surpassed my expectations on every level.

“The theme was ‘unity’, and everyone there is fighting for the same thing – to be recognised, for women to be empowered and important. Talking about our love for the profession was magic. I realised we had so much in common, and even less well-developed countries have things we could learn from in the UK around midwifery.”

Dr Firth’s visit to the Congress was also highly productive, with her Mary Seacole Award-funded research into improving health inequalities for minoritised ethnic groups in the UK finding a receptive audience.

“It was based on my research in the UK, but with a view to disseminating the findings to a global audience,” she said. “The Congress was very helpful, because I was able to hear first-hand how midwives are supporting this population of women in other countries. It gave me a good idea of what the similarities and differences are.

“I made some excellent connections with other researchers, so I hope there will be some collaborations to emerge.

“I spoke to researchers from Canada and Australia, which have more developed services for asylum seeking and refugee women than we do in the UK. We discussed how they have established services and how they got the funding so we could share some of that learning with our maternity services in the UK.

“It was also an amazing opportunity for Megan. It was fortuitous that we both went, but she was a credit to herself and was a wonderful representative for the university and midwifery in the UK.”