Mothers left alone as birth guidelines are broken

Title: Mothers left alone as birth guidelines are broken.


A survey of women who have recently given birth in hospitals has found that a fifth do not have a midwife or doctor by their side throughout the delivery.


A survey of women who have recently given birth in hospitals has found that a fifth do not have a midwife or doctor by their side throughout the delivery. Health experts are alarmed because official guidelines state that women in labour should have continuous care. The growing shortage of midwives is leaving some maternity units struggling to cope, particularly as parts of Britain are seeing a rising birth rate. The survey of 5,000 mothers, funded by the Healthcare Commission and produced by the National Perinatal and Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, also shows high levels of dissatisfaction with post-natal care, with many women saying that they felt stressed by noisy, crowded conditions where there was too little support, particularly for first-time mothers. The findings come as the government prepares to announce its own maternity implementation strategy. Ministers have realised that maternity care has received too little money and direction within the NHS, and are identifying ‘hot spots’ where care is very poor. The new strategy will give women the right to choose whether to give birth at a local hospital, in a more informal midwife-led unit, or at home with midwife support. This right to choice over place of birth, however, will not be implemented for another two years, as many parts of the NHS cannot yet offer all three options.

Dr Gwyneth Lewis, the national clinical director for maternity services, told The Observer that offering individual care was extremely important. ‘If just one woman feels that she was left alone during the birth, then that is one woman too many. It is totally unacceptable to leave any woman alone.’ Lewis said she was well aware of the pressure on midwives, who may have three or four women delivering at the same time. ‘One way in which we have tried to free up midwives is to create maternity support assistants who will do some of the administration for them, but they should in no way take the place of a midwife during the delivery.’ Experts say that around 10,000 more midwives are needed in the UK to prevent a rise in accidents during birth. There is some evidence that the number of accidents suffered by women during birth may be increasing, and around 60 per cent of the largest payments made by hospital trusts for medical negligence are to women who have suffered injuries during birth. The Healthcare Commission, which partly funded the report being published tomorrow, is expected to carry out a full review of maternity services later this year. There is also concern that several smaller units are facing closure because of the financial squeeze on the NHS.



Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of The Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT) unless specifically stated.

Published on