RCM launches tool to tackle high levels of maternity disadvantage

on 08 May 2024 Midwifery Midwives Specialist Midwives Pregnancy Alcohol and pregnancy Maternity Safety Safety Specialist Mental Health Midwives RCM RCM Member

"Addressing not only health and wellbeing, but social complexity is key to improving maternity outcomes for all women,” says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it launches a Maternity Disadvantage Assessment Tool (MatDAT) for midwives.

With a growing number of pregnant women experiencing more social complexities, the RCM has developed the MatDAT tool not only to ensure they receive the right care, but also the right support from other agencies. There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the impact of disadvantage, such as poverty and poor housing on pregnancy and birth outcomes, which means a multi-agency approach is needed more than ever.

Launched at the RCM’s Annual Conference in Liverpool today, MatDAT will provide midwives across the UK with a standardised assessment tool to provide better support to the women in their care. The tool also includes a modifiable template for maternity services at a local level to map and plan the support services that are available for women and their families experiencing social disadvantage.

Commenting, RCM’s Director for Midwifery, Policy and Practice, Sally Ashton-May said:

“While pregnancy and the perinatal period can be a happy and joyful time for some, for many women it can be an incredibly tough time. During the perinatal period women are at their most vulnerable and may require more support than they have ever needed at any other point in their life. RCM members right across the UK have told us they are seeing more and more women with social complexities. This impact that this has on the health and wellbeing of women and families during pregnancy cannot be underestimated.

“MatDAT will support midwives to deliver care that is more woman-centred and responsive to needs. The scale of complexity means we must work in partnership with other health and social care professionals and national organisations. MatDAT will link midwives with appropriate services and external agencies for additional support when needed.”

The RCM says while the MatDAT is a standardised tool for assessing social complexity it will also provide a helpful scoring system for midwives to identify individual women’s needs, on a scale of one, for those ‘thriving’ with no mental or physical health issues and good family support, to four, for those women and families at risk of immediate harm, and who have an acute level of unmet complex needs and safeguarding issues that require urgent intervention. Using this scale supports midwives to determine the subsequent level of care and intervention women may require. 

MatDAT has been developed in partnership with Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) which is supported by The National Lottery Community Fund and The National Childrens Bureau.

Speaking at the RCM’s conference, Carla Stanke, a Public Health Specialist with LEAP said:

Until now, midwives have not had a tool for assessing social needs in the same way that GPs and health visitors do. This new tool can now be used during routine midwifery appointments to enable midwives to identify social risk factors more consistently. Once implemented on a wider scale MatDAT could positively impact maternity equity, especially for pregnant people women facing social complexities. Earlier identification and support of social risk factors during pregnancy can result in fewer inequalities and greater health equity for pregnant women and their babies. LEAP is proud of this tool which supports national ambitions for more personalised, client-centred midwifery care.”

MatDAT was officially launched on day one of the RCM’s Annual Conference during a session for delegates on narrowing health inequalities in maternity care. Launched alongside this new tool for midwives was an RCM iLearn module, Health inequalities: The Power of Maternity Care. The RCM’s conference continues in Liverpool until Thursday 9 May.


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The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team.  We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM | A professional organisation and trade union dedicated to serving the whole midwifery team