The RCM’s Pressure Points campaign has shown how midwives lack the time needed to support women’s postnatal emotional wellbeing, to advise them about infant feeding and life threatening signs and symptoms, and to sufficiently plan each women’s postnatal care needs.
As a result, the RCM is calling for an urgent review of maternity funding to ensure that services are properly equipped to help parents and babies.
The report shows that:
• Trusts are having to spend far more on maternity services than commissioners are paying them for. In 2012/13, trusts spent approximately £340m more on maternity than commissioners funded them for;
• Only 40% of midwives believe they have sufficient time to support women’s postnatal emotional wellbeing, despite the fact that 60 per cent of new mothers experience depression or anxiety;
• 30% of midwives believe that new mothers are rarely or never given enough advice to spot potentially life threatening signs and symptoms in the critical 24 hours after birth;
• Only 70% of midwives thought that they had adequate time to support breastfeeding, and more than 40 per cent of new mothers thought that they were not given enough information about breastfeeding;
• Only a fifth of mothers discussed their postnatal care plan with a member of their maternity team, and only 35% of midwives and MSWs though that there was usually time to do so*.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said: “It’s shocking that funding for maternity has not increased to keep pace with the baby boom and the rising demands on services.
“As a result, services are stretched and midwives don’t have the time to support women in the crucial period after a baby is born. These moments are some of the most precious in a women’s life, and are vital in ensuring the continuing and long-term health of the mother and baby.
“The government must urgently review the level of funding for maternity services, commit to ending staffing shortages and invest in genuine improvements that will make the service more efficient, more effective in the long-term and deliver the level of postnatal care that women and babies need.”
*Poll of RCM Midwives, Maternity Support Workers and Student Midwives September to November 2013, and information gathered from www.netmums.com survey.