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Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC)

The Avoiding Brain Injury in Childbirth (ABC) programme aims to support maternity services to improve and personalise care in labour to reduce risks of avoidable harm.

Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, the ABC programme is led by a collaboration of the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute at the University of Cambridge.

About ABC

The ABC programme brings together clinical expertise, lived experiences, and the best possible scientific evidence to co-design national clinical protocols, innovative tools and a safety culture toolkit to address two significant contributors to avoidable brain injury in childbirth:

  • the detection and response to suspected fetal deterioration during labour
  • the management of the obstetric emergency of impacted fetal head at caesarean birth.

Implementation of the ABC tools and multi-professional training for the whole maternity theatre team will facilitate a prompt and effective response to prevent harm in childbirth.

These nationally standardised, evidence-based approaches will help address unwarranted variation in pregnancy outcomes while supporting clinical judgement to deliver safe maternity care.

"Every midwife, maternity support worker, obstetrician and anaesthetist wants to provide good, safe care – and the best way to do that is by working together. The ABC programme brings together all those involved in maternity care, offering practical solutions to some of the most acute clinical challenges."
Birte Harlev-Lam, Executive Director, Midwife, Royal College of Midwives

The ABC approach

Our unique approach combines academic rigour, clinical know-how and lived experience to develop novel maternity staff training and quality improvement packages.

Rigour and multidisciplinary expertise 

The programme is based on robust evidence combined with the expertise not just of maternity staff, but also of social scientists, engineers, human factors experts, information scientists and evaluators – as well as the views of women and birth partners.

The approaches have undergone extensive user testing and piloting in a variety of maternity settings.

Listening to women, birth partners and their families

Listening to women and their families and ensuring that their voices are heard lie at the heart of the ABC approach.

"The ABC approach is guided by learning from women and birth partners about what ‘good looks like’ for them in communication and informed decision-making".
Dr Lisa Hinton, THIS Institute

Training together and safety culture

Through the ABC programme maternity staff will train together as a team, based on the principle that “staff who work together must train together”.

The training enables staff to learn together in a supportive ‘one team’ atmosphere and equips them to work together effectively in an emergency or situation of pressure.

Both training and toolkits are focused on evidence-based principles including good teamwork, civility and communicating with each other that are essential to deliver patient-centred care.

Learn more about us

Watch these videos for more information:

Status of ABC

The programme is currently awaiting piloting, with the aim that it will be rolled out nationally in England in 2024.