The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) welcomes the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) Annual Report 2012: Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays.
The RCOG is pleased to see recognition of the importance of the pre-conception and pregnancy periods (Chapter 5) in helping to ensure that babies get the best start in life. This is very much in accordance with the principles set out in our report High Quality Women’s Health Care, published in 2011, where we advocated Sir Michael Marmot’s life-course approach and the configuration of women’s health services into strategic clinical networks.
Present lifestyle factors such as maternal obesity, poor diet and nutrition, a lack of physical activity/ exercise, high levels of alcohol consumption/smoking and poor sexual health and risky behaviours are a ticking time bomb. These must be addressed using a public health model to instil in the female population a sense of personal responsibility. Health promotion via education and support provided to the young and socially vulnerable can help them to make better decisions, thereby reducing health inequalities. Similarly, the NHS needs to be structured so that it provides services in a range of settings to enable better continuity of care.
A mother’s mental health during and after pregnancy and breastfeeding rates post-pregnancy can influence future outcomes for babies. It is right that this report highlights the effects of these issues.
RCOG President, Dr David Richmond said:
“The CMO is right to focus on prevention in her report but there are many challenges for the NHS and healthcare professionals. Early intervention can play a key role in ensuring that the future needs of mothers and their babies are met.
“We must do what we can to prevent preterm birth as the personal and social costs are many. Similarly, there is also the need to reduce the unacceptably high stillbirth rates in the UK as the emotional costs for bereaved parents are long-term and incalculable.
“Public health messages, reinforced during ante- and postnatal care appointments can help but there is a need to reach those who, for one reason or another, fall through the cracks in the system and only present when it is too late.”