A 2003 maternity care survey highlighted the reality of giving birth in the UK. The survey was carried out by The Quality Care Commission and it involved 23,000 women…
Let’s start with some of the more positive points:
66% said they were always treated with kindness and understanding
78% of women said they had confidence in the midwives caring for them
75% said they were always involved in decisions about their care
These statistics are pretty good and they are an improvement on the 2010 survey results but there are still 34% of women who felt that they were not treated with kindness and understanding and a quarter of women who didn’t feel involved in decisions about their care. And that, to me, that is still unacceptable – women who are pregnant, in labour or on a postnatal ward are vulnerable and in need of information, kindness and consideration.
However, the survey also found:
25% felt anxious in labour because they were left alone
26% could not contact midwives when they wanted to in pregnancy
41% felt they didn’t get enough help with breastfeeding
39% had raised concerns about their care during labour and birth
19% felt their concerns during labour and birth were not taken seriously
It is clear that maternity units are stretched and, sadly, this means that the care and kindness can sometimes be lacking. This is not criticism of midwives but of the current maternity system which is stretched – The Royal College of Midwives says there is a huge shortage of midwives, with 4,800 still needed. The system demands a lot of paperwork and medical checks and even the best midwives can, at times, be more focused on filling in forms than on a labouring woman. It’s a tricky balance and one which can frustrate midwives because they can not be as with woman as they would like.
So, if you are pregnant, what can you do?
Pregnant women and their partners need to take control and prepare as best they can during pregnancy for their birth of their baby. There are a number of things expectant parents can do:
- Go to some good antenatal classes – you need good information as well as the skills to be assertive, confident and calm. You need to know how to stay in control if your birth plan needs to change.
- Hire a doula – this can make a huge difference to expectant and labouring parents because doulas provide additional support and reassurance. During labour a doula will provide continuous care so you are never on your own, enabling you to feel safe and secure and able to labour confidently and calmly.
- Find out where the postnatal support is for breastfeeding – ask your community midwife, health visitor and antenatal teacher for links. Check out La Leche League and Kellymom and look into hiring a postnatal doula.
- Think about where you are going to give birth – look at your local maternity units, think about a birthing centre or a homebirth.
- Be as prepared as you possibly can for handling your contractions, for being assertive, for knowing more about your options and asking for care and information you need and for making decisions. This means you can work well with your midwife and to have more control.