The growing number and complexity of births must be met with more training, more support workers and more midwife-led services, the Royal College of Midwives has said.
The RCM published its first “State of Maternity Services” report last week and plans to repeat the review annually. Services in England are “facing significant challenges with births rising by 22% since 2001”, according to the report.
Although the number of midwives has also increased, the RCM warns this has “failed to keep pace with the rocketing number and increasing complexity of births” and that the country needs 5,000 extra midwives.
Since 2001 there has been a 71% rise in births to women over 40, who are at higher risk of complications. There has also been a rise in births among other higher risk groups such as women with diabetes and other long term conditions. The average age of midwives is also rising, leading to fears of a retirement bubble.
The RCM made three proposals to address the midwife shortage. These include “providing more midwife-led units and more home births… [because] births in such units or at home result in fewer interventions and are therefore less demanding of midwife time” (see story above).
The report said: “For every 10,000 births moved from a consultant-led unit to a midwife led unit or to a home setting, the required midwifery workforce would be reduced by the equivalent of 71 full-time midwives.”
The report also recommended employing “adequately trained” maternity support workers to take on “up to 10% of the tasks traditionally carried out by a midwife”.
Finally the report recommends training more registered midwifes, in order to fill posts and replace those retiring.