Research by The National Federation of Women’s Institute (NFWI) has found that women are being let down without enough postnatal support.
The research gathered experiences of 5,500 women who have given birth in the past five years – over 4,000 of these births were in 2012 – and found that women are not getting the support that they need.
- 60% of the women who took part in the research wanted more support with postnatal care immediately after giving birth
- 20% of women did not see a midwife as often as they needed in the days and weeks after birth. This situation varies tremendously with wide variations in the quality and standard of care across different areas of the country
Ruth Bond, Chair of the NFWI, said: “This report provides insight into the patchy and staggeringly inconsistent levels of care that are a day to day reality for women in the early days and weeks following the birth of a child. Almost 2,000 women will give birth across the UK today, sadly many will be let down at a time when they most need help. Evidence shows that providing the right care and support in the transition to parenthood can have a long term impact on the health and wellbeing of women and their families, yet women are being routinely failed, often this seems to be because of staff shortages. Support is overdue, we’re calling for urgent action to address postnatal.”
According to the WI:
- 67 out of 84 trusts (79%) did not meet the recommended staffing ratio in 2011, and many did not have plans in place to address their staff shortages.
- 88% of women had not met the midwife who cared for them during labour and birth before going into labour.
- The report’s recommendations aim for an improvement in the quality and consistency of maternity care in the UK, for maternity planners to review their staffing and to ensure continuity of care.
I welcome this report because I have seen these changes throughout my career as an antenatal teacher and throughout my time as a parent. When I had my daughters 12 and 9 years ago, I saw the same midwife throughout my pregnancy, I had a homebirth so she was there with me and I saw her almost every day for a week afterwards.
For many women now, their experience has changed. I hear again and again how women are seeing different midwives throughout their pregnancy and they may only see a midwife once or twice after they have had their babies. It is not the fault of midwives, most are struggling to cope with their workload and to meet the needs of the women they look after within the overstretched system.
My role as an antenatal teacher is to empower parents to get any extra support and continuity if they feel they need it. The reality is that many community midwives and maternity units can be busy and expectant and new parents may need to look at how they can get more support…
Expectant parents can:
- hire a birth doula for ongoing support and information throughout pregnancy and birth, to complement the medical checks provided by your midwife. A doula can help you to feel calmer and in more control during the birth of your baby
- look into your local maternity facilities – is there a small maternity unit? is there a birthing centre? Can dads stay for longer periods?
- look into a homebirth
New parents can:
- Hire a postnatal doula, who can support with feeding, bathing and finding your feet as a parent along with providing practical support with sleep, making snacks and helping out around the house.
This additional support is affordable and it could make a big difference to how rested and supported you feel in those early days, weeks and months with your baby.