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Women's Institute urges maternity planning review and highlights staff shortages

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Midwives have been told: three in five new mothers are being let down without enough post-natal support.

The claim comes in a new report launched on May 3 by the National Federation of Women’s Institute (NFWI) and NCT parenting charity.

The study, which looked at the birth experiences of 5,500 women in the UK, said that mothers are not getting the backing they need, while over-stretched midwives are struggling to meet increasing demands on their time.

The report outlines recommendations for maternity planners to improve the quality and consistency of maternity care.

As many as 60% of women wanted more support with postnatal care immediately after giving birth, the study found, and 20% of women did not see a midwife as much as they needed after labour.

The report says there is a “postcode lottery”, with unacceptably wide variations in the quality and standard of care across different areas of the country, noting that London women suffer most.

The report urged maternity planners to:

  • establish a midwife-to-birth ratio of 1:28 per year
  • take action to ensure continuity of care
  • enable women to build and maintain a relationship with their midwife

Ruth Bond, chair of the NFWI, said: “Almost 2,000 women will give birth across the UK today, sadly many will be let down at a time when they most need help. 

“Evidence shows that providing the right care and support in the transition to parenthood can have a long term impact on the health and wellbeing of women and their families, yet women are being routinely failed, often this seems to be because of staff shortages. 

“Support is overdue, we’re calling for urgent action to address postnatal care and put an end to the postcode lottery,” she added.         

Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “The report paints a disappointing and worrying picture of our maternity services.

“We are 5,000 midwives short in England. Without enough midwives to cope with the increasing demands on maternity services I fear that we will not see the situation depicted in this report improving.

“The government recognises the need for more midwives and numbers are increasing, but there is still a long way to go.

“Women have been promised choice around their maternity care and this report clearly shows that that choice is being denied or is simply not available to far too many.”

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