'Smoking and obesity rates during pregnancy a real concern in Wales' says RCM as its annual State of Maternity Services Report is launched’

on 06 November 2018 Smoking Obesity

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has today highlighted their concerns around the rates of obesity and smoking during pregnancy amongst women in Wales. The warning comes as the RCM launches the Welsh edition of its annual State of Maternity Services Report 2018 in Cardiff today (Tuesday November 6th).

The RCM’s report also identifies Brexit as a potential threat to the midwifery workforce in Wales.

Commenting on the report, Helen Rogers the RCM’s Director for Wales said;

“Smoking and obesity rates during pregnancy in Wales are a real worry, one in four women in Wales are recorded as obese while pregnant and one in five are recorded as smokers. There are also quite dramatic differences in smoking and obesity rates between the different areas across Wales.

“We know obesity and smoking can have an impact on stillbirth rates and women who are overweight do require extra support throughout their pregnancy. As with older mothers, levels of smoking and obesity add to the complexity of the workload faced by midwives and the entire maternity team as these women do require additional care and support during their pregnancies.

“Also, women in Wales are choosing to become mothers later in life and that is a national trend, but older women will, on average, require more care during their pregnancy and at the birth. This will not be true of all older women, but overall it does add to the mix of complexity with which maternity services must cope. An ageing of the profile of women accessing maternity care does therefore increase the number of midwives needed by the NHS in Wales.

“The RCM is also concerned about the potential impact of Brexit on the midwifery workforce in Wales. This may not be an obvious concern, but with the loss of well over one thousand EU midwives in England there is some risk of the NHS in England poaching midwives from our maternity services here in Wales.

“Wales has been doing well compared to England is terms of future proofing our maternity services, but we must continue to stay ahead of the curve to ensure we will not face the same challenges that England currently has, such as the chronic shortage of midwives.

“The announcement by the Welsh Government of increasing student midwife numbers in 2017-18  will go a long way towards offsetting the large numbers of midwives due to retire in the coming years. The RCM would like to see this increase maintained over the coming years to ensure our maternity services have the number of midwives needed to deliver safe, high quality care for women, babies and their families.

“We also very much welcome the Welsh Government’s decision to retain the student midwife bursary which will ensure that those interested in dedicating their life to the NHS and becoming a midwife will not have to pay thousands of pounds, unlike in England.

“This report highlights many of the positive initiatives that have been used to address the challenges currently faced by our maternity services in Wales. The RCM will continue to support midwives, maternity support workers, the Welsh Government and stakeholders to enable them to deliver safe high quality maternity care to women in Wales.”

Read: State of Maternity Services report - Wales 2018