A new study published today (17 September) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), examining outcomes and experiences of maternity care, suggests that women from lower socioeconomic groups in the UK report a poorer experience of maternity care.
Results of the study, using data from the 2010 National Maternity Survey, found that the most deprived women were 60% less likely to have received any antenatal care, 38% less likely to have been seen by a health professional prior to 12 weeks gestation and 47% less likely to report being able to see a health professional as early as they desired in their pregnancy, when compared to the least deprived women.
Other factors including; unplanned pregnancy, transfer during labour, higher caesarean section rates and poor communication from healthcare professionals were also more frequently reported by women from the most deprived backgrounds.
Commenting on the study, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr David Richmond, said:
“The results of this study show that not enough women are seeking the antenatal and postnatal care that they need. The research also raises concerns where the quality of maternity care requires improvement.
“Pregnancy can be a worrying time and we need to make sure all women are accessing the right help and support.
“We have known for some time that pressure on maternity services is growing in some areas particularly inner city conurbations placing stress on units. More consultants and midwives are needed to provide the standards of care we recommend 24 hours a day, especially given the rise in complex pregnancies.
“Women should receive the best possible care in a continuum, from pre-conception to after birth and the RCOG believes that strategic clinical networks, focusing on women’s health, will help improve services and ensure that appropriate care can be provided at every stage of a woman’s life.
“Another challenge we face is how to connect with the women who disappear after birth. Frequently these women experience complex social factors while pregnant, for example, refugees and asylum seekers, those with mental health issues or a history of substance misuse. Many of these women have complicated pregnancies and post-birth follow-up is essential to reduce morbidity and to ensure that their babies are healthy. We must engage with these women more effectively and ensure there is enough support staff to provide postnatal care and advice.
“We are involved in ongoing work to constantly improve maternal and gynaecological standards of care to improve the lives of all women, regardless of socioeconomic position.”
For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthea Lindquist, Jennifer J Kurinczuk, Maggie Redshaw, Marian Knight. Experiences, utilisation and outcomes of maternity care in England among women from different socioeconomic groups: Findings from the 2010 National Maternity Survey. BJOG 2014; http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.13059