Maintaining oral health during pregnancy: perceptions of midwives in Southwest Sydney.Collegian. 2011; 18(2):71-9.C
Current evidence highlights the importance of maintaining good oral health during pregnancy, unfortunately, many women in Australia do not access dental services at this time. Compounding the situation is the lack of importance placed on the value of good maternal oral health by prenatal care providers. These constraints highlight the potential value of having preventive oral health advice and referral to an appropriate care pathway during the prenatal period. Midwives are in an excellent position to offer such a service, although the specific aspects of the role have not been clearly defined in Australia. As a preliminary step to the development of an oral health service program, initiated by midwives, this study assesses the midwives' perceptions of such an approach. Data were collected for this qualitative study via a focus group with 15 midwives. Thematic analyses of the data showed that despite the high prevalence of poor oral health in the area, most midwives were unaware of its possible ill-effects on maternal and child health. Midwives were also reluctant to discuss oral health with pregnant women because of a lack of appropriate referral pathways to the Public Dental Services. Midwives were receptive to the idea of establishing this new service but highlighted barriers such as the time involved, the competencies required and the need for referral pathways. The findings suggest that a midwifery-initiated oral health service has potential although issues such as training, time constraints and referral pathways must be addressed.