Professor Hannah Dahlen

Position

Professor and Higher Degree Research Director, School of Nursing and Midwifery

Biography

Hannah Dahlen is a Professor of Midwifery and Higher Degree Research Director in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Western Sydney University.  Hannah obtained her PhD in 2008 and was employed as an Associate Professor of Midwifery at Western Sydney University (WSU) in 2008 and promoted to Professor in 2012. She is also the Director of Higher Degree Research (HDR) in the School of Nursing and Midwifery (2014-ongoing). Prior to working in the university sector she had a mainly clinical role working as clinical midwife specialist, clinical midwifery educator and a midwifery consultant. Hannah maintains clinical practice today alongside her fulltime academic role and she has practised as a midwife for nearly 30 years. Hannah was one of the first midwives in Australia to gain Endorsement for Medicare and prescribing and ordering medications and laboratory tests. In 2017 she was one of the first midwives in NSW to gain visiting rights to a public Hospital as a privately practising midwife.

Research

Hannah is a leading midwifery researcher in Australia, with an international reputation as an outstanding midwifery scholar. This is demonstrated through publication of over 150 papers and book chapters, despite only being an active researcher for the past 10 years and maintaining clinical practice. Hannah had the highest number of publications of any staff member in the School of Nursing and Midwifery between 2013-2018 and the 12th highest in Western Sydney University. Her role involves research, teaching and leadership, with approximately 60% of time spent on research related activities supported through competitive and internal grants and consultancies and 20% in her role as HDR director. Hannah works closely with academics in the university as well as with health professionals in policy and practice. Hannah’s teaching contribution is primarily in the supervision of HDR/Honours students (11 currently, 20 completions).

Hannah is co-lead along with Professor Virginia Schmied of The Mother Infant and Family Health Research Network. The MIFam Network works collaboratively with women, families and health and community groups to research and facilitate positive health outcomes for women in pregnancy, birth, the postnatal and early parenting. MIFam has a strong presence in Sydney's west, working with women, families, health and community groups as well as with national and international researchers.

Hannah has developed strong international research partnerships for research projects that are having significant impacts in the field of maternity care and midwifery globally. She has been a co-investigator on the European Union Grant Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) Action Project being led from the University of Central Lancashire (Childbirth Cultures, Concerns, and Consequences: Creating A Dynamic EU Framework For Optimal Maternity Care). In 2011 Hannah along with Professor Downe (UCLAN) and Professor Holly Kennedy Powel (Yale University) formed an international research group called EPIIC (Epigenetic impact of Childbirth). This is now an international, interdisciplinary research collaboration representing fields of genetics, physiology, developmental biology, epidemiology, medicine, midwifery, and nursing. The EPIIC group hypothesize that events during the intrapartum period –specifically the use of synthetic oxytocin, antibiotics, and caesarean section - affect the epigenetic remodeling processes and subsequent health of the mother and offspring. The rationale for this hypothesis is based on recent evidence and current best practice. We have published our hypothesis in Medical Hypothesis (Hannah as lead author) as well as several other resulting publications. Hannah has international collaborations with researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN-UK), Staffordshire University, VU Medical Centre Amsterdam, Lund University (Sweden) and Yale (USA). Hannah is also retain ongoing collaborations nationally with the University of Technology, University of Sydney and Mater Hospital Brisbane.

Hannah has skills in both quantitative (RCTs, systematic reviews, prospective cohort studies, population based data linkage) and qualitative methods (grounded theory, narrative inquiry, thematic analysis, content analysis, discourse analysis). Her research interests fall under two major themes:

  1. Keeping birth normal, which includes research into birth positions, perineal comfort and trauma during second stage, birth experiences of first time mothers at home and in hospital, use of NSW and National perinatal data to look at maternal and perinatal outcomes in different models of care and place of birth, physical activity and obesity from the perspective of women and health professionals, and vaginal birth after caesarean.
  2. Health service/policy development, which includes publications on homebirth, birth centres and freebirth, the development of a midwifery initiated oral health service for pregnant women, service engagement and outcomes for infants and their young mothers, analysis of media depictions of midwives obstetricians and birth, the use of doulas in the health service and outcomes for low risk women giving birth in private and public hospitals.

Prizes, honours and awards

In 2019 Hannah was awarded a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia (General Division) in the Queen’s birthday honours list for her significant services to midwifery, nursing and medical education. Hannah was named (30th November 2012) as one of Sydney’s leading thinkers in the Sydney Morning Herald’s list of 100 “people who change our city for the better” and as “probably the leading force promoting natural birth and midwife-led care in Australia.” In 2013 she was part of the team awarded the 2013SWSLHD Quality Award under the category- Working as a team for - A midwifery initiated Dental Service: An Australian First. Hannah received the Vice Chancellors award for HDR Supervision- Highly Commended 2016 and the Quality Awards South Western Sydney Local Health District “Partnering to improve oral health of Aboriginal children” 2015 SWSLHD Quality Award under the category- Excellence in Provision of Care and Service to Aboriginal Clients. Other awards include: Life Member of the Australian College of Midwives (2008), nominee for National Council of Women awards  (2006), nominee for writer of the year for contributions to the commercial parenting magazine, Australian Parents magazine (2001) and Excellence in Nursing Practice Award for Education (2001). In 2018 Hannah’s midwifery group practice, Midwives at Sydney and Beyond was nominated for the HESTA awards.
Invited keynote and speaker addresses

Hannah has given papers at over 100 conferences and seminars since 2010 with half of these being invited keynote addresses. She has had 30 published conference abstracts since 2008. In 2005 Hannah gave the keynote address at the International Confederation of Midwives Triennial conference in Brisbane (the peak body and leading conference for midwives in the world). This keynote address was then an invited publication in the inaugural edition of the Women and Birth Journal. In 2009 she gave the keynote address at the Normal Birth Conference in the UK and again this paper was published and is a highly cited political paper in the profession. In 2010 she gave the keynote address at the Royal College of Midwives Annual Conference in the UK and was asked to speak in the Netherlands at the inauguration of the first Dutch Chair in Midwifery. In 2011 she gave the keynote address in the USA at the American Nurse Midwives Annual Conference. In 2012 she gave a keynote address in China at the International Normal Birth Conference and then at the same conference series in Brazil in 2014. In 2018 she gave the keynote address at the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZ) and the Association of Radical Midwives (UK). These are all world-leading organizations and conferences. In 2019 she was a speaker at the Opera House for International Women’s Day in the All About Women event which hosts some of the leading feminist voices in Australia.

Research Support Income

Hannah has received more than 20 grants since 2008. She has been a lead investigator on an ARC Linkage (LP130100306) ‘Characteristics, trends, co-admissions and service needs of women admitted to residential parenting services in the year following giving birth in New South Wales’. Hannah has also been CI on three NHMRC grants (APP1022422) 'Birthplace in Australia: A prospective cohort study' (APP1022007), 'Improving maternal and infant outcomes: A multicentre randomised controlled trial of midwifery and dental intervention', and (APP1103015) ‘Costing the Place of Birth in NSW: New Knowledge to support maternity service reform’. Hannah was also recently involved with a successful NHMRC Early Career Fellowships Grant led by a past PhD student of hers (APP1166247) ‘The birth course: evidence based childbirth education program to reduce rates of caesarean section in first time mothers. Hannah is an investigator on the recently successful Women’s Health Initiative Translational Unit (WHITU) that received $2.25 million for the next five years (2019-2023). Hannah is an investigator on the Strategic Research Initiative Transforming early Education And Child Health (TeEACH). Hannah is also a member of the SPHERE CAG Maternal, Newborn and Women’s Health. She has received 20 other grants since 2008 and was a part of the international COST EU team that received 400,000 Euros in 2009 and again in 2014.

Identifiable benefits outside academia

Hannah’s research has made a significant contribution to maternity services development in Australia and internationally. Her work with Professor Sally Tracy into the safety of small units in Australia and birth centre care have led to changes in government policy and have been cited in major maternity planning documents and influenced decision making. Her research into perineal care led to international recognition and adoption of practices such as perineal warm packs into second stage management as evidenced by the recent national Women’s Hospitals Australasia Perineal Bundle of Care. Hannah’s RCT on perineal warm packs (undertaken during her PhD and published in 2008) was incorporated into a Cochrane Systematic Review (CSR) (Asheim et al. 2017) providing Level 1 evidence that: “The use of warm compresses on the perineum is associated with a decreased occurrence of perineal trauma.” Hannah’s reputation in this area has led to authoring the chapter on perineal care for the Australian/New Zealand textbook used by all midwifery students with the fourth edition of this revised chapter published in 2018. Hannah has also been part of the team developing an education program for midwives in Australia to improve perinatal oral health and this has been taken up by midwives in NSW and Victoria and incorporated into clinical practice as well as won several awards. In 2008 Hannah was given Life Member status as a Fellow of the Australian College of Midwives in recognition of her significant contributions to the profession of midwifery.

Hannah also sit on several peak NSW State committees, such as the Maternal Morality Committee. She was part of the NHMRC committee in 2009/10 producing the National Guidance on Collaborative Maternity Care (2010). This document is fundamental in shaping collaboration between health professionals in maternity care. Hannah has undertaken regular consultancies for government organisations, including Health Workforce Australia and numerous health services.

Other professional activities

Hannah remains clinically engaged currently and has had a predominantly clinical career. This has given rise to a strong profile in the profession of midwifery. She is the past National President and Vice President of the Australian College of Midwives. Hannah is the National Media Spokesperson for the Australian College of Midwives. She was the Secretary of the NSW Branch of the ACM for 12 years (1997-2009) and an Executive Member of NSW ACM until 2018 (over 21 years in executive positions). Hannah was also the Editor of the NSW Midwives professional journal Midwifery Matters for over 10 years. Hannah was also a Board member of the Rhodanthe Indigenous Midwifery Scholarship Trust fund for several years (2012-2018). She has written over 100 articles for non-peer reviewed professional midwives journals and over 200 articles for commercial parenting magazines as a midwifery expert. Hannah sits on several editorial boards of both peer reviewed journals and non-peer reviewed journals/magazines. She edits the content for consumer websites such as Baby Centre, and Raising Children Network and appears regularly in articles in popular media outlets aimed at mothers and families, such as Kidspot, Mamamia, Babyology and others. Hannah is also one of the top ranked authors writing for the Conversation with more than 34 publications.

Research Interests

  • Human rights in childbirth
  • Normal birth
  • Perinatal Maternal and Infant Health
  • Perineal care

Qualifications and Recognition

  • PhD University of Technology, Sydney
  • BNurs University of Technology, Sydney
  • MComN University of Sydney
  • BNurs University of Technology, Sydney
  • Grad Cert (Pharm), flinders
  • Fellow of the Australian College of Midwives
  • AM General Division

Research & Publications

Contacts Details

Email H.Dahlen@westernsydney.edu.au
Telephone +61 2 9685 9118
Location Parramatta Campus