Many women have a positive experience of maternity services, but for some care continues to fall short, finds a national survey of 17,000 women in England, published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) today.
The results show that the majority of women who gave birth in February last year had confidence and trust in staff, felt they were ‘always’ listened to by midwives and received appropriate advice at the start of labour.
But continuity of carer, access to midwives after giving birth and perinatal mental health are areas where improvements are needed.
The findings of CQC’s 2019 maternity survey highlight women’s views on all aspects of their maternity care from the first time they saw a clinician or midwife, during labour and birth, through to the care provided at home in the weeks following the arrival of their baby.
Key findings include:
- 88% of women surveyed felt they were given appropriate advice at the start of labour, compared to 86% who said this in 2018; and 84% said any concerns they raised during labour and birth were taken seriously by staff, up from 82% in 2018.
- The majority of women surveyed (84%) said they ‘definitely’ had confidence and trust in the staff caring for them during labour and birth (78% in 2013) and while in hospital after giving birth, 76% were ‘always’ treated with kindness and understanding (65% in 2013).
- Fewer women reported being left alone while during the later stages of labour at a time when they were worried (8% in 2018 falling to 6% in 2019).
- In 2019, 63% of women said they ‘definitely’ were given information about any changes they might experience to their mental health after having their baby, but a quarter (25%) said they only received this information ‘to some extent’ and 12% did not receive it at all.
- Although most women responding to the survey (80%) were told who to go to for advice about any changes to their mental health after giving birth, one in five respondents (20%) were not.
Dr Jo Mountfield, Consultant Obstetrician and Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“The NHS is one of the safest places to give birth and we must continue to do all we can to provide the best possible care for women and their babies. These survey results show that despite ongoing pressures on maternity services, very good progress is being made in several important areas of care, and highlight where improvements should be made.
“It is very encouraging to see that the majority of women surveyed said they had confidence and trust in the healthcare professionals who cared for them during labour and birth, they were treated with kindness and understanding, they were given appropriate advice at the start of labour, and any concerns raised were taken seriously by staff.
“Meanwhile, it is concerning to see that postnatal care, and perinatal mental health are areas where improvements are still needed. More than 1 in 10 women will experience mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth, and suicide is a leading cause of death among women in the 12 months after giving birth.
“We are committed to the training and development of all healthcare professionals to optimise the care they give and continue to advocate for the improvement of these services to ensure every woman and their family can access appropriate and high quality care for both their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
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- The full results for England, as well as individual results for each trust are available on The CQC website.
- The RCOG’s ‘Better for Women’ report calls for improvements in the identification of women at risk from mental and physical health issues at the six week postnatal check.
- As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the Government has announced a commitment to ensuring continuity of carer and choice, as well as more specialist maternal mental health and postnatal physiotherapy support for women.
- The RCOG supports the NCT’s Hidden Half campaign that calls for improved guidance, tools and education in primary care on best practice around maternal mental health. There needs to be a better joined up approach to data sharing about known vulnerable women between primary and secondary care services. All clinicians should be made aware of local support groups for these patients to make redirection as seamless as possible.