The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) and NCT have launched a report ‘Support Overdue: Women’s Experiences of Maternity Services’ examining the experiences of 5,500 women who gave birth in the UK in the past five years.
This cohort of women filled out a survey asking questions about their most recent birth experience including details on their choices, relationships they had built with midwives and the type of extra support they may have wanted.
The report highlights a number of issues including a lack of patient choice, midwife shortages, the fragmentation of maternity care and women needing more support in the postnatal period.
The report concludes that women are not getting the support that they need, while over-stretched midwives are battling to meet ongoing and increasing demands on their time. Results of the survey show that 60% of women wanted more support with postnatal care immediately after giving birth, and 20% of women did not see a midwife as often as they needed in the days and weeks after birth.
The report also found that there are wide variations in the quality and standard of care across different areas of the country. Women in London suffered the worst in the postcode lottery with over 25% reporting they were unable to see a midwife as often as they wanted following birth.
Commenting on the report Dr David Richmond, RCOG Senior Vice President (Clinical Quality) said:
“This report ties in very well with our maternity outcomes report, also published today which highlights the wide variation in practice and outcomes which exists across maternity units in England. This is indeed a source of concern for our specialty as we cannot be sure that every woman is getting the best possible care.
“Maternity services are facing many challenges with the increase in the birth rate and the number of more complicated births. It is important to ensure that women receive the care they need 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 throughout a woman’s lifetime.
“There is a need for more midwives and for more consultants to deal with high risk pregnancies. Consultant specialist-delivered care is essential for women with complex obstetric needs - which may only become apparent during labour.
“We welcome this report as it provides valuable information from the woman’s perspective.”
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