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ANTA member presents research at International Conference in China

Naturopath and long-standing member of ANTA, Amie Steel, travelled to the 6th International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research  in Chengdu, China on the 3rd May, 2011. Ms Steel, is director of Embrace Holistic Services, and presented her company’s research on the success and effectiveness of their nationally delivered workshops for midwives. The workshop aims for midwives to be more competent and confident when discussing the safe use of acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy and aromatherapy in pregnancy with their women.  

The innovative research project looked at changes in the attitudes of the participating midwives regarding the evidence, safety and role of these natural therapies in pregnancy. It also evaluated whether by completing the course the midwives felt they were able to practice more safely. “This is an important part of what we do. Part of our mission at Embrace is to ensure safe care for women, and this means that good information has to be getting to the right people. By doing this research we can check whether we are meeting our own goals of supporting the practice of safe, integrated care” says Ms Steel.

The most significant finding for the safe care of pregnant women, as that the midwives felt more able to identify if a referral to a natural therapist was indicated, and very importantly, to identify a competent and qualified practitioner. Ms Steel says “this is one area that we were particularly glad to have achieved. As a naturopath who works with a lot of other practitioners, I know there is a lot of uncertainty about identifying good quality natural therapists amongst other health professionals, so if these midwives feel they now have a handle on this, then we are one step closer to women receiving the care they want from people capable of providing it well.”

The results of the project also showed the participants consistently reported an increased knowledge in the current research on these natural therapies. The study found that by participating in the workshop, the midwives felt more competent in their practice. “This is probably because, they also reported feeling more able to answer questions about how safe and effective natural therapies are for pregnant women – which is a big barrier for anyone who doesn’t understand what we do”.

“We are particularly excited to be able to present this research in China. The Congress is the largest conference of its type internationally”, says Ms Steel, who is also completing a PhD in Public Health. “We will be able to show researchers who mainly focus on clinical trials that change to the safe practice of complementary medicine can be made at a grass roots level. I think that this is the most important result of all. We know pregnant women use natural therapies, and it is often self-prescribed so we want to make sure that they are doing it safely. This means making sure that their regular carers have enough knowledge to pick up unsafe practice before it becomes a problem, and have the skills to refer to qualified natural therapist if the situation is more complex”.

As the other director of Embrace Holistic Services, Kate Johnstone is also excited by the result. “The part of this that makes me really happy is that bridges towards collaborative care are being built. People tend not to talk to their regular health care providers about their use of natural therapies as they are worried about being judged. But our findings suggest that these midwives will be more confident asking questions and most importantly giving unbiased and accurate information to any queries the women may have. From our point of view, we are also hoping that this change in midwives’ perceptions will filter through to the public. It’s about generating positive and balanced inputs for people from their health professionals, rather than just horror stories.”

Based upon the success of this workshop Ms Johnstone and Ms Steel have decided to expand their approach, to include training for natural therapists. Ms Johnstone explains, “We developed our current workshop using a model called ‘interprofessional education’, which means we have had natural therapists training midwives about their therapy. We are now also offering “Engaging in Birth” which is training for natural therapists delivered by a midwife to help them gain a better understanding in areas of pregnancy care which are missed in their regular courses. This will leave them more equipped to work closely with midwives and other maternity carers. This was the obvious next step for us.”

By being asked to present this research, Ms Steel feels pleased that the innovative approach that is being taken by her company to embrace a positive experience of pregnancy and parenting has been recognised on the world stage. “Eventually, we want to have practitioners from all areas of maternity care in Australia undertaking integrated workshops together. For now we just want to take the next step and create the foundations to strengthen the well-deserved place natural therapies hold in the delivery of maternity care in Australia”.

About Amie

Amie Steel is already well published and respected for her research into complementary medicine. Amie has a Master of Public Health through the University of Queensland and is currently undertaking a PhD. Her PhD research is exploring the role complementary and alternative medicine practitioners are playing in pregnancy, labour and birthing in Australia. The research topic is part of a larger project which is exploring Australian women's experience of the different health professionals they consult with throughout this important time in their life. Amie became interested in this area through both her 11 years clinical experience as a naturopath seeing the benefit of improved collaboration between health professionals combined with her personal experience birthing her child in the public health system. Amie has been involved in reviewing and writing a variety of peer-reviewed journals and textbooks on topics relating to evidence-based naturopathic practice, complementary and alternative medicine, and maternity care.

Amie has also played a senior role in the development and delivery of degrees in naturopathy, nutrition and western herbal medicine in Australia. 


The International Conference of Complementary Medicine is organised by the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research (ISCMR). ISCMR is an international scientific organization of researchers, practitioners and policy makers that fosters Complementary and Integrative Medicine research and provides a platform for knowledge and information exchange to enhance international communication and collaboration.

About Embrace Holistic Services

Embrace Holistic Services is a company whose aim is to promote women-centred care in pregnancy and birthing. Our focus is on facilitating community awareness and inter-professional collaboration through education and training, as well as coordinating key research projects that help bridge gaps and improve the experience of women, families and communities within the current maternity health care model.

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