RCM responds to the UK’s first birth trauma inquiry report

on 13 May 2024

‘Putting women at the centre of their own care, listening to them, learning lessons from both failed and successful maternity services is crucial to delivering safer better care’ that’s the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as it responds to a new report on birth trauma.

The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the Birth Trauma Association follows the UK’s first-ever inquiry into birth trauma to which the RCM provided evidence in February.

Safe levels of staffing and ensuring there are enough midwives so they have time with women particularly during antenatal appointments to pick up issues early on. In addition to discussing concerns and making decisions around birth choices and infant feeding choices is fundamental to delivering good quality maternity care says the RCM.

The RCM says it also supports the reports call for the reinstatement of a Maternity Commissioner with accountability to the Prime Minster, this the College says is very much needed particularly as their remit would include a commitment to tackle inequalities in maternity care for Black, Asian and minority ethnic women.

Commenting, RCM’s Chief Executive, Gill Walton said: 

“Sadly, not all birth experiences are positive and poor experiences can have a devastating impact on woman and should be taken very seriously as a threat to maternal mental and physical health and infant wellbeing. The women who shared their experiences with the inquiry must be commended for doing so and we owe it to them to learn and improve from the failings that happened in their care. Undoubtedly staffing shortages drastically impact the safety and quality of care that midwives can and so want to deliver. Our own members tell us they are struggling to give women the time and quality of care they need and deserve. Also, with the rise in more complex pregnancies, having the right skill mix of staff on shift is key. Access to appropriate training has also been highlighted in this report and when there aren’t enough midwives, crucial training is often postponed and this impacts how prepared staff can be for not only emergency situations, but how improvements in day-to-day maternity care can be achieved.”

Solving the midwifery recruitment and retention crisis with practical solutions must be the number one priority for any incoming Government says the RCM who recently published  ‘How to Fix the Midwifery Staffing Crisis’ a practical guide which contains solutions for the next UK Parliament.

Included in the key recommendations is a plea for mother’s health records to be digitised, this is something the RCM has long called for. Assessing and documenting risk in an electronic record is essential to providing safer effective midwifery care. The RCM has already published an Electronic Guidance and Audit tool and has called for midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) to receive appropriate training on electronic record keeping systems used in their Trusts and Health Boards.

The report also highlighted the difficulty many women have in accessing maternal mental health services. Mental ill-health ranks with physical factors as one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the UK, and yet this is not reflected in the resources allocated to it says RCM. Last year the RCM called for the postcode lottery provision of perinatal mental health services to be tackled urgently and published a ‘perinatal roadmap’ which laid out recommendations to improve perinatal mental health care in the UK.

Commenting on that Gill added:

“We need to ensure that every Trust or Health Board in the UK providing maternity services has a fulltime perinatal specialist midwife. This would make an enormous difference and enable midwives to refer women in their care to someone in their service for immediate support. The RCM also believes and have advised that all maternity professionals should be equally concerned with mental as well as physical health in pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal period. Also, the recommendation of a standardised post birth service for give mothers a space to speak about their experiences we would support, but this is something that needs separate levels of investment. It’s important too that fathers and birthing partners who have witnessed a traumatic birth have access to the right support and help postnatally.”



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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