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Decline in maternity care before, during and after birth in last five years

A survey has found that women who gave birth in recent years are experiencing a decline in the care by maternity services.

The health and care regulator for England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), asked around 20,000 women about their experience during pregnancy, during labour and after childbirth.

Over 120 NHS Trusts took part in the survey which asked women who gave birth in February 2022 a total of 26 questions about their maternity experience and compared the results with previous years, dating back to 2017.

From the responses, the CQC found ‘a concerning decline’ with women’s experiences worsening in the last five years, especially when help is needed most during labour and after childbirth.

Of those questioned in 2022, 63% of women felt they were always able to get help when they needed it during labour which was down from 72% in 2019. The results are lower still for care in hospital after giving birth with 57% saying they were always able to get help, a decrease compared with 62% in 2019.

Aftercare continued to show a decrease as less than half (45%) said they could always get support or advice about feeding their baby during evenings, nights or weekends, a downward trend since 2017 (56%). The survey also found an increase in people who said they felt they were not taken seriously if they raised a concern during labour and birth.

However, since 2017, there has been a positive upward trend of women who had recently given birth reporting that there was no delay with their discharge from hospital, from 55% to 62% in 2022. Also, 78% of those surveyed said they definitely had confidence in staff involved during their labour and baby's birth.

Also, the support for mental health during pregnancy is reported as improving, although the CQC states there remains room for further improvement.

Gill Edwards, Partner in our clinical negligence team, said:

“Women and other pregnant people report some differences in their experiences of maternity care according to certain demographic characteristics. It seems that women are more likely to report positive experiences of maternity care if they have continuity of care, i.e., a named midwife, or have an unassisted vaginal delivery; whereas women are more likely to report poorer experiences if they have had an emergency caesarean birth, have no named midwife or are first time parents.

One example is Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust which had one of the lowest scores for whether parents were offered a choice of where they could have their baby, and whether they were given enough information from midwifery or obstetric staff to help them decide. There needs to be a full explanation to parents about the risks and benefits of home birth and midwifery led centres compared with maternity units with access to obstetric input if needed in an emergency.”

Gill is a Partner within the Clinical Negligence team here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about maternity care, birth injuries or any other aspect of clinical negligence and wish to speak to Gill or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Gill directly.

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