Call The Midwife: Midwife opens up on reality of ‘heartbreaking’ PTSD storyline

Call the Midwife: Sister Frances delivers bad news to a patient

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Call The Midwife has been airing on BBC One and this season is set in the late 1960s. Ways of working in the profession have constantly adapted since then, but the core values of the Nonnatus House midwives remain the same today. Midwife Odette Abououf, founder of Mummy’s Organics, spoke exclusively to about the accurate portrayal of sensitive topics.

So far Call The Midwife has focused on some emotional topics that are often kept out of the spotlight for fear of causing others distress.

In childbirth, the unexpected experiences can often remain in people’s memories in vivid detail.

During the 1940s and 50s, families would have been encouraged to get on with life.

Yet the season so far has portrayed trauma in an accurate and candid way.

Odette explained how an ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder storyline was highlighted accurately.

Derek (played by Jack Colgrave Hirst) and Audrey Fleming (Kathryn Wilder) lost their first baby Christopher at birth.

In the new episodes, they celebrated the birth of their second, healthy baby.

Odette said: “The heartbreaking story of a young couple expecting their second baby following the death of their first baby.

“Derek had been exposed to radiation poisoning and their baby had been born without legs below the knee.

“The couple attend the antenatal clinic and relive their fears of something similar happening to their current pregnancy and baby.

“Audrey was displaying signs of reliving previous memories linked with the clinic noises, smells, curtains and seeing Sister Frances (Ella Bruccoleri) again.”

Audrey and Derek could return to update the midwives on their progress as they are continuing to hold the Government to account for the radiation poisoning.

Odette continued: “Audrey describes the expression on Sister Frances’ face, which reflected her own shock when delivering the couple’s previous baby.

“Visual expressions are something that are picked up on during childbirth, women are looking for a smile and reassurance that everything is OK.

“PTSD would be causing triggers of previous memories to be relived by this couple and Audrey is becoming overwhelmed by fears of what could go wrong.

“What if this baby has breathing problems? You can see the fear and anxiety expressed in the young couple’s faces.”

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Audrey experienced a long first stage of labour as she was fearful of what could happen.

Odette added: “The final part of labour shows Doctor Turner reassuring Audrey that their baby is in an excellent position for birth and then Derek is invited back in to attend the birth.

“This was normal practice during that time for partners to wait outside, however with their previous history, Audrey would have needed Derek by her side.

“Beneath the surface, you can see that Derek is scared and trying to be strong for Audrey, but his own grief, trauma and coming to terms with loss will not be addressed.”

Viewers were left on the edge of their seats as they yearned for the couple to have a healthy baby.

Odette continued: “Once they are reassured their baby is safe and well, disbelief and gratitude are evident.

“PTSD is now diagnosed for women who have been through a difficult birth experience.

“It can’t be brushed under the carpet, it needs to be acknowledged, addressed and discussed.

“There wasn’t the knowledge of this during the 40s and 50s.

“During make-do times, traumatic experiences remained buried under the surface, awakening during triggers of previous memories.”

Call The Midwife airs on Sundays on BBC One at 8pm.

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