Today more than 300 women will give birth in London, many for the first time. An equal number will discover that they are pregnant.
What can they expect from the capital’s maternity services?
Well, we have an NHS which delivers safe care free at the point of delivery. In addition London has some of the leading Hospitals in the UK and they offer tests, techniques and technologies which are world class.
“London remains the area of England with the worst perceived maternity care in the UK.” NHS Maternity Statistics, England, 2013/14.
Why is this?
It may be to do with the fact that having a baby is a profound experience for a woman, one she will remember all her life.
Women experience a huge range of emotions; excitement, anticipation, fear, joy, uncertainty, panic and usually an intense love, combined with overwhelming responsibility. They need and expect more than just good clinical care at this time. A woman needs a midwife who she can get to know and who will share some of these emotions with her, who will support and guide her with evidence based care to make individualised, informed decisions and who will share the highs and lows as the woman grows into a confident mother.
A real professional companion.
Sadly this is not the experience of most women in London. Surveys by the NFWI and NCT found that:
6 out of 10 did not see the same midwife more than once in pregnancy,
4 in 10 saw up to 10 different midwives.
5 in 10 did not have the name and telephone number of their midwife.
8 out of 10 had never met the midwife who cared for them in labour and a startling 15% did not have one to one care in labour. The highest percentage in the country.
The Care Quality Commission found that 1 in 4 women were left alone at some time in labour.
4 in 10 felt they were sent home too early and almost 6 in 10 wanted more postnatal support. This is not surprising since postnatal care has always been described as the Cinderella service and in some parts of London one home visit is the norm and/or a post natal clinic!
So, what is to be done?
For those women with resources there is the option of adding on to their NHS care by engaging the services of a private, independent midwife. She will be a constant part of your experience, providing your ante natal care at home, available by phone if you are worried, on call to you for labour and by your side throughout labour and birth. She will visit frequently in the post natal period and support you until 6 weeks as you grow into a confident and happy mother. She will share the experience with you and rejoice in your achievements.
Yes, we know that sadly this is no help to those women who are unable to afford this care and that is why Neighbourhood Midwives is working hard to provide it’s model of care through the NHS and is also setting up a Charity so that we can reach disadvantaged and vulnerable women.
In the meantime if you would like some additional care throughout your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period just call Neighbourhood Midwives and know that you may be helping a woman less advantaged than you in the future.
Support Overdue: women’s experiences of maternity care. NFWI. 3 May 2013.
Maternity Services Survey: Care Quality Commission 2013.