The lack of GP involvement in maternity care is undermining services to pregnant women and their babies, according to a King’s Fund report.
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Family doctors are often best placed to know a woman’s medical history and yet often have little involvement in pregnancy care.
The study, from the King’s Fund think tank, calls on GPs to play a bigger role through all pregnancy stages and to work more closely with midwives and consultants in providing joined up services.
Today’s report said GPs could play an important role in all pregnancies but particularly for women with complex medical or social needs.
This may include managing weight gain in obese women, referral to stop smoking services and discussing genetic testing for those women who are identified as being at a higher risk of having offspring with genetic abnormalities.
A visit early in pregnancy could also check a woman’s general health, including a review of medical history from medical records and a heart examination.
The report said a GP could prove vital because women do not always share all their medical history with midwives.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM agrees that GPs can, and in some areas already do, make an important contribution to the care of pregnant woman and have a particular role to play in providing pre-conception counselling for women in their care, for undertaking a medical examination when this is required and for ensuring appropriate care for women with medical problems, who become pregnant.
“However, the RCM notes that, for a variety of reasons, many GPs have relinquished their role in the provision of routine antenatal care and are not required to have any experience in obstetrics.
“We would argue, as does the report, that if GPs are to have a wider role in maternity care, they must be able to demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of maternity care and be actively engaged with their local maternity services.”