This year’s GLOW conference (Global Women’s Research Society), hosted by the University of Cambridge, took an inter-disciplinary perspective with the theme ‘Bench to Bedside’. Lab scientists, obstetricians, midwives, social researchers, statisticians, funders and even filmmakers spent two days together, learning how they were all contributing to global maternal, newborn, child and reproductive health research.
The quality of research presented at the conference was excellent, from the keynote speakers to the 5-minute ‘flash’ talks. The breadth of work was also striking, covering epigenetics in the Gambia, alcohol-based hand rub in Uganda and the experiences of parents who suffered a stillbirth in Kenya.
Highlights were the contributions from collaborators overseas, in particular, the panel discussion with four impressive female African researchers. These women strongly encouraged capacity building of local researchers, to improve understanding of the conditions that affect women and babies in Africa, and to evaluate the most effective ways to prevent and manage them. Maternal sepsis featured highly and was the focus of the final keynote talk. David Lissauer, a clinical lecturer at the University of Birmingham, described a number of completed and ongoing studies, including work to improve hygiene and prevent infection in Malawian hospitals.
In this context, it was a privilege to present a poster on behalf of the Soapbox team at LSHTM, with results from the HANDS study in Zanzibar that highlight how often birth attendants risk recontaminating their hands after washing them. It was also a pleasure to support a former MSc student, Laura Cornelissen, who gave a captivating presentation of her secondary analysis of WOMAN trial data showing increased sepsis among women with postpartum haemorrhage who underwent invasive treatment such as putting a balloon in the womb to the stop the bleeding.
However, as if often the case, the most valuable part of the event was the opportunity to meet and speak to other maternal health researchers: to share experiences, learning, ideas, and plans. Hopefully, this will lead to us working together more effectively to improve the safety of women giving birth around the world.
Pictured: Former MSc student Laura at GLOW