Debby Gould

Debby Gould

Debby Gould initially trained as a midwife, beginning with nursing training, since there were very few direct-entry midwifery courses when she trained. She was inspired to become a midwife by her older sister, Cathy, who had a home birth with her second son. The magic of the celebration of that birth has never left her and although Debby was not allowed to witness the birth she well remembers the positive impact the midwife had on the female members of her family.

As the fifth girl in a family of six, where the boys were always given priority, Debby found it refreshing to see a reversal of the normal paternalistic hierarchy during the home birth. The new mother was treasured and made to feel special and the midwife was also greeted as an important guest.

Initially, getting a midwifery post was difficult in Portsmouth in 1984 so Debby took a part-time post in what was then called a GP unit. (It is now known as a co located midwifery-led unit.) This was not Debby’s first choice of post, having anticipated consolidating her training in a busy consultant-led unit but it was certainly life-changing. After feeling disillusioned during her training, Debby quickly fell back in love with midwifery and the midwifery profession as she learned to support normal birth and watch women give birth to their babies without interventions. Thus the seeds were sown for Debby’s midwifery career, which has involved championing normality and promoting woman-centred care.

Initially, Debby spent 14 years working as a midwife in the Portsmouth area and this included working in a consultant-led unit, a co-located birth centre, a standalone birth centre and also working within the community. While she was a community midwife the author attended home births, including some water births at home. It was during this time that Debby gave birth to her own two sons in 1988 and 1989. She also continued studying and obtained a BSc and an MSc (achieving the last with distinction)—as well as becoming a hypnotherapist along the way too. It was as a result of Debby’s MSc work that her concept analysis of normal labour was written, which was a seminal piece of work for grounding midwifery in normality. This was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in 2000.

With a strong grounding in clinical practice and now a Master’s degree, Debby left Portsmouth and became the Practice Development Midwife at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. She then became High Care Manager at Princess Ann Hospital in Southampton, where she had responsibility as a labour ward manager working with high risk women. It was here that Debby met Maggie Elliott, who was later to become Maggie O’Brien and the President of the Royal College of Midwives.

Maggie exposed Debby to the political side of midwifery, which resulted in Debby becoming a Royal College of Midwives (RCM) council member in 2001. Debby later went on to become Deputy Chair of the RCM Council in 2005 and Chair of the RCM from 2007-2011, completing two full terms in office. Debby’s career continued to progress: she was Head of Midwifery in Winchester, then became one of the first consultant midwives in the UK at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital birth centre in London. Three years later she returned to a Head of Midwifery role when she took up a secondment at St George’s Hospital, London and she currently works as Head of Midwifery at University College London Hospitals (UCLH). She is also named in Debrett’s People of Today as one of the top 25,000 influential and successful people in the UK.

Debby has built a strong reputation for public speaking and political commentary on maternity care. During her time as an RCM council member she helped to launch the Campaign for Normal Birth and her role in promoting normality has continued since then. She is on the advisory faculty for the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Course. She has acted as advisor and promoter of normality and this has involved working on Scottish normal birth initiatives, speaking in Abu Dhabi, Poland and Southern Ireland and being a returning speaker to the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists Advanced Labour Ward Skills courses. Debby is also a member of the British Journal of Midwifery editorial board, and if you wish to know more about her views and ideas you might like to follow her Birth Rite column in the British Journal of Midwifery, which she has been writing since 2001.

As her book Welcoming Baby demonstrates, today Debby is as passionate as ever about giving women high quality maternity care through excellent midwifery. She believes that the pivotal role that midwives and midwifery can contribute to the well-being of our society is both underestimated and under-utilised. Welcoming Baby provides an insight into some of the ways in which she believes midwives can make more of a contribution to the well-being of both mother and babies.