A sign language course has been launched for student midwives in Leicester.
The programme at De Montfort University is designed to help midwives support deaf women during labour, and could prove particularly useful in emergency situations when an interpreter may not be available.
It is the first time that a university has offered sign language training to midwives to help them communicate with deaf women without an interpreter.
The students will learn basic sign language and be taught about issues facing deaf people.
The course is being run by senior lecturer, Bernadette Gregory, in association with local charity Action Deafness.
Ms Gregory said: "We decided to run these sessions to highlight the fact that midwives are personally and professionally accountable under the new Equality Act, which came into force in October 2010, to offer the best possible non-discriminatory care to all women and their partners.
"The workshops have highlighted some of the problems faced by deaf parents accessing midwives and their unique communication needs, and we hope to teach the next generation of midwives how to communicate and provide better care to these women at such an important time in their lives.
"I believe that we are the first university to run this type of training and I hope by highlighting this issue, midwives and other healthcare professionals will introduce it into their training."