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28th November 2014

Giving birth is the most common reason to be admitted to hospital in England. The birth of a child should be one of the happiest and most memorable occasions of your life – but what happens if you are not given the help and support you need from a trained professional?

There is one apparent issue in maternity care; there simply are not enough midwives.

A survey carried out by the Royal College of Midwives found that 40% of new mums are being discharged too soon after the birth and had not been given enough information on how to spot health warning signs in their newborns. This could mean that lives are being put in danger and may result in pregnancy related mental health issues such as post natal depression going undetected.

As midwifery staff are so far stretched, there is often not enough time to dedicate detailed visits to new mums, leaving some people feeling alone and helpless. There may not be enough time to ask mothers how they are coping, whether they have any concerns or give them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.

The issue is not with the midwives themselves. Even as birth rates are the highest they have been in 40 years, there are many parents who receive excellent care with no complications. Having so few midwives per birth means that vital signs are being missed, sometimes requiring a readmission to hospital costing the NHS more money in the long run.

Not only do we need more midwives, but it seems important that personnel are fully trained in mental health issues specific to birth, with specialists available for every birthing unit in the UK. Health Education England (HEE) has made a pledge to train enough specialist staff by 2017. NHS midwifery is often a topic of debate in politics with party leaders promising the world when it comes to maternity care – but will it ever be enough?

Last month, the NHS revealed a ‘Five Year Forward View’ which outlines the vision of the NHS’s future. The purpose of the document is to outline where changes need to be made, why it needs changing and what they intend to do to achieve this change.

In relation to maternity services, they have outlined the need for more midwives and also a plan to commission a review for future models for maternity units, to report by next summer, which will make recommendations on how best to sustain and develop maternity units across the UK. The report also highlights the need for NHS funding to support the choices of expectant mothers and ensuring maternity services are developing in a ‘safe, responsive and efficient manner.’

It is extremely concerning to see the strain that midwives are currently under. Too few midwives can only have a detrimental effect on the work and reputation of the NHS and all staff who work tirelessly to deliver babies safely.

How do you think we can solve the midwife crisis?



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