Meet Lesley Gilchrist, who has gone from One Born Every Minute star to 'expert midwife'

Laura Reid chats to midwife Lesley Gilchrist, who appeared on One Born Every Minute, as the organisation she co-founded launches fertility resources.

When midwife Lesley Gilchrist gave birth to her own two children and was for the first time put in the shoes of the many women she had supported, it was a turning point for her care and clinical practice.

She had repeated to women time and again how plain water was the advised way to soothe physical birth trauma, but now in the position herself, she began to consider whether there were other alternatives to ease the pain and help the healing process.

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It sparked a journey that ultimately led, seven years later, to the launch of My Expert Midwife, a range of products - as well as online resources and antenatal services - designed to help people tackle the physical and emotional side effects of pregnancy, birth, recovery and new parenthood..

Lesley Gilchrist, of My Expert Midwife.

Lesley recalls: “We started to explore - is there nothing on the market because there isn’t a market? Or is there nothing on the market because it’s a female problem.”

Lesley, who recalls an “isolated” upbringing in the Western Isles of Scotland, followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a midwife, initially training as a nurse in Glasgow before working for a year in cardiothoracic intensive care in Newcastle.

She did her midwifery training in Tyneside and spent the early years of her career there before accepting a role on the labour ward at Leeds General Infirmary, where she starred in Channel 4 documentary series One Born Every Minute. “It wasn’t dramatised, it’s very realistic,” she says. “It was very strange at first but you did get used to the cameras.”

“Leeds is at the forefront of evidence based practice,” she continues. “You get it drilled into you about backing up all your decisions clinically with evidence and research. It leads you to have an appetite to question things. I met some amazing inspirational doctors, professors and obstetricians there.”

Two years after birthing her second child in 2010, Lesley “got back into the swing” of her career, and studied a master’s degree. “That gave me time away from clinical practice and my focus then became looking at birth trauma, not just psychological but physical,” she says.

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Whilst Lesley says she found there were few remedies available to help women after giving birth, she discovered that alternative therapies, such as essential oils, were being used in some areas to support healing. It was something she began to explore further as she branched out into private midwifery work, alongside her NHS role.

In 2017, with massage specialist co-founder Claire Charlton, Lesley launched My Expert Midwife. A team of five midwives, including Lesley herself, explore problems that women face in the antenatal and postnatal period and look at potential solutions, whether that be products that can be manufactured to help with the likes of morning sickness and birth tears or packages of content that can help people be more informed about issues.

A further three midwives run webinars and antenatal classes.

Lesley, who resigned from both NHS and private practice to focus on the Knaresborough-based organisation in 2018, and her team have now launched a new free information hub and not-for-profit conception kit to help people maximise the chance of getting pregnant naturally.

“When we looked at the information that was available online to couples who are trying to conceive we found that we had to visit multiple sites to access the information that couples would need and there was a lot of non-UK information that might not be relevant,” she says.

“Planning and preparing to become pregnant is associated with better outcomes and improved health for women, children and families.”

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