Midwives comment on new annual maternity figures from NHS Digital

on 25 October 2018 Maternity Services

Today (Thursday 25th October 2018) NHS Digital have published the NHS Maternity Statistics 2017-18 report*.

Commenting, Mandy Forrester Head of Quality and Standards at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said; “These are useful statistics for us to gauge an overall picture of what is happening within our maternity services.

“There has been a small rise in the number of women having caesarean sections and this could be for a variety of reasons. There will always be women who for medical reasons need a cesarean, but for many they are not needed. What is crucial is that women are aware of the potential complications of having a cesarean section in the short and long term. To ensure this happens we need to give midwives the time to sit and discuss a woman’s options for the birth of her baby.

“Nice guidelines on caesarean section support midwives and their colleagues to in turn support women to make informed decisions when it comes to caesarean section. Also, induction is based on risk assessment and what is clinically appropriate and what the woman decides after discussion with her care provider (usually the obstetrician). The midwives role to support the woman in her choice.

“It is also very positive to see that over 80 percent of women had skin-skin contact with their baby within the first hour of birth.  Skin-skin contact is so important for the overall health and wellbeing of both mother and baby and clinicians should make every possible effort for all babies to have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers within one hour of birth.

“Over 70 percent of babies born received breast milk or donor milk for their first feed, but unfortunately what are seeing is a clear drop of in the numbers of women who continue to breastfeed up to 6 months and beyond. Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby. 

“For women who choose to breastfeed it’s vitally important that receive support from midwives so they can initiate and sustain breastfeeding for longer, but they also need support from their family, friends and wider society, particularly when it comes to breastfeeding in public. The RCM would like to see an investment in high quality post-natal support and infant feeding specialists so women can truly get the support they need and deserve when it comes to breastfeeding.

“The recorded rate of women under 20 smoking is far too high and it must be tackled as matter of urgency. Midwives are committed to ensuring the women they care for have the safest possible pregnancy and supporting them to stop smoking is part of achieving this. However, the provision of stop smoking services in place around the UK is often patchy.

“Midwives need to have high-quality stop smoking services available for the women they support in order to address this. We would also like to see more public health campaigns and information regarding the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

“The proportion of women over 40 presenting to maternity services with a BMI in the obese range is far too high, particularly when we are seeing a continuing trend of women choosing to have babies in their late thirties and forties.

“We know obesity and smoking can have an impact on stillbirth rates and women who are overweight do require extra surveillance throughout their pregnancy.

“The RCM recommends that women should try to be an ideal weight before they become pregnant and, if not, should follow midwifery advice to manage their weight .Women who are overweight or obese  will also need support and signposting to access weight-loss services to ensure that they are an ideal weight before they embark on their next pregnancy.”




*The full NHS Digital Maternity Statistic Report for 2017-2018 is available to view here: NHS Maternity Statistics 2017-18

To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.