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120,000 women may not be getting support they need in labour and birth

For embargoed release 00:01 Friday 24th  August 2012

A new survey of women’s experience of pregnancy shows that whilst some progress has been made the Government has a lot of ground to make up to meet its promises on maternity services in England. Over 1800 women responded to the survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and  Bounty Parenting Club.


In May, the Government made some specific pledges for maternity care. It pledged to improve maternity care by making sure that:

- Women will have one named midwife who will oversee their care during pregnancy and after they have had their baby.

- Every woman has one-to-one midwife care during labour and birth.

- Parents-to-be will get the best choice about where and how they give birth.

- Women who have postnatal depression and women who have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a baby will get more support from the NHS.


Whilst nearly two-thirds of women knew the name of their midwife, almost a third said that they always saw a different midwife during their pregnancy and postnatal care. This is especially prevalent in London where 60% said they always saw a different midwife.


Care whilst in labour remains an issue with nearly a fifth (18%) of women feeling unsupported during labour and birth. This could mean as many as 120,000  women in England each year not getting the care and support they need at this crucial point.


Sixty-four percent of women were not offered the choice of giving birth in a midwife led unit. This is despite a significant report released late last year, showing that midwife led care is as safe as  hospital care  for appropriately selected women results in fewer medical interventions and is more cost effective. 


Midwifery shortages and lack of resources have an impact on choice of place of birth. A significant number (12%) of women said that they were not offered a choice because there were not enough midwives or there were inadequate facilities on offer to them.


Another of the Government’s pledges was to provide more support for women in the postnatal period and for those suffering from postnatal depression. Given this pledge it is a concern that a third of women said they did not feel fully supported after they gave birth.


The on-going shortage of midwives in England is having an impact on the quality of care for women. Nearly half (47%) of those that responded to the survey said they would have liked more time with their midwife during pregnancy. This is endorsed from the midwifery perspective. In a recent survey* by the RCM a large majority (88%) of midwives said they were not usually able to give women all the care and support they need.


Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The Government says it is committed to providing better maternity care and we endorse the pledges they have made. However, actions speak louder than words and this survey shows that there are many challenges ahead to ensure  their promises are delivered across England.

“It throws up many areas of concern and highlights the pressing need for sustained investment in maternity services and in midwives.”
For more information contact the RCM Press Office on 020 7312 3456, pressofficer@rcm.org.uk.

Notes to editors
*Online survey of 2,956 midwives conducted in August 2012 by Blue State Digital on behalf of the RCM.

About the Survey – Bounty Parenting Club’s Word of Mum™ omnibus surveys are run bi-monthly from January until November each year. .A total of 1,828 women were surveyed, including women in the early stages of pregnancy through to mothers with a youngest child aged 2 years.  The July Word of Mum™ omnibus survey was carried out between the 12th and the 31st of July 2012.
For information on the Government’s pledges for support for women with postnatal depression and improvements to maternity care, please visit:

The Royal College of Midwives - is the voice of midwifery. We are the UK’s only trade union and professional organisation led by midwives for midwives. The vast majority of the midwifery profession are our members. The RCM promotes midwifery, quality maternity services and professional standards. We support and represent our members individually and collectively in all four UK countries.  We influence on behalf of our members and for the interests of the women and families for which they care.  For more information visit the RCM website at www.rcm.org.uk.



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