A lack of midwives means that new mothers and their babies are not getting the best possible postnatal care, according to a report.
As a result, four out of 10 new mothers are discharged too early from hospital after giving birth, the study says.
The Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) report calls on the national midwife shortage to be addressed.
In addition, the study claims that women are not receiving NICE-recommended levels of postnatal attention.
It adds that nearly two in three midwives (65%) claim that the amount of postnatal outcalls is based on organisational pressures rather than the needs of new mothers. This is contrary to NICE’s recommendations.
In addition, only around one in three (35%) midwives and back-up staff say they have sufficient time to go over postnatal care strategies with women.
The report, published today, says such lack of care is resulting in worse care for babies and their mothers with care continuity suffering.
The RCM wants the amount of midwives raised to a sufficient level to ensure that all mothers get the required amount of postnatal visits.
It also wants the visiting schedule to be determined by midwives and mothers rather than work pressures.
The RCM’s chief executive, Cathy Warwick, says the lack of midwives means that mothers are not receiving the optimum postnatal care, especially with postnatal care.
She says that midwives have “massive impacts” on not only a baby’s wellbeing but a mother’s too.
Ms Warwick also wants mothers and midwives to discuss postnatal support levels in future. The college says this is not happening at the moment.
Time pressures mean that midwives regularly do not have sufficient scheduling space to inform women properly over postnatal care.
The RCM’s study drew on the opinions contained in a poll by Netmums mothers’ group and the RCM.
Cathy Warwick adds: “The impact good postnatal care has on women’s experiences and their long-term health should not be underestimated. Postnatal care should always be based on women’s needs and not on funding or organisational issues.
“This reinforces the need for more midwives. Numbers have been increasing but not fast enough and England remains seriously short of the numbers needed if care is to be of high quality throughout antenatal, labour and postnatal care . The bottom line is that care must be based on clinical need.
“We are seeing women being discharged earlier without adequate support. This leads to readmissions later on and more cost to the NHS. This is a false economy. It is not good for women and babies and it is not good for the NHS.”