The figure is an estimate based on the results of a survey of 1800 women, which it carried out in partnership with Bounty Parenting Club.
The survey revealed that 18% of those questioned felt unsupported during their labour. It also found that women were not receiving consistent support during their pregnancy and after giving birth. A third of women reported that they had seen a different midwife every time, and 47% said they would have liked to have spent more time with their midwife during their pregnancy.
Another survey carried out by the RCM indicated that midwives are also unhappy with the current state of maternity services. Out of the 2956 midwives questioned, 88% reported that they were not usually able to provide women with all the care and support they needed.
The findings show that the government’s promises on maternity care, such as ensuring all women have one named midwife during their pregnancy and one-to-one support in labour, are not being met.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick 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.’
Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne added: ‘This government has distracted and destabilised the NHS with budget cuts and an unnecessary re-organisation – leaving the NHS unable to fulfill government promises on maternity care.
‘Ministers must get a grip and start taking their own maternity pledges seriously.’
Concerns were also raised that women are still not being given freedom of choice over where they give birth. The RCM/Bounty survey found that 64% of women were not being offered the option to give birth in a midwife-led unit. Around 12% reported that this lack of choice was due to a shortage of midwives.
Commenting on the findings, Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the National Childbirth Trust, said: ‘This a seriously regrettable deficit when the 2011 Birthplace in England study confirmed that births in midwifery units for low-risk women are safe, effective and satisfactory for the family and cost-effective for the NHS.
‘NCT asks the government to ensure its own evidence-based policy is 100% in place by bringing midwifery staffing up to the appropriate levels and providing access to care in a midwife-led unit for every healthy woman with a straightforward pregnancy.’