During the course of my 4 pregnancies, I have seen a lot of the local maternity services – from the midwife led unit to the high dependency wards and neonatal unit. I have been scanned, monitored and given medication and surgery by midwives, health care assistants, surgeons and anaesthetists.
I have experienced some incredible care, and some not so incredible.
There are things about our maternity services that are absolutely spot on. My midwife was a godsend – she sat, she listened, she understood. She pushed for my care to be the way I wanted it to be, even when things went wrong. She cared before, during and after the birth. She became my friend. The neonatal team who cared for my babies were second to none. They made us feel an important part of the care team when we felt like outsiders. They were so kind, so gentle and so warm with our children. They supported them, and us, until we were ready to start our life as a new family. The anaesthetist in charge of the epidural for my last birth talked me down from a panic, kept me calm when I realised my husband was going to miss the birth, and rejoiced with me when a healthy baby girl came into the world.
But, sadly, there are some areas of our maternity care that need improvements. So what changes would people like to see?
Partners being able to stay in hospital. I was so worried about being left in hospital on my own with a newborn baby. I ended up having a home birth so it didn’t matter in the end but it’s a horrible thought. A Slice of my Life….Wales.
Following on from that:
For dads to be treated like they matter too. All too often the focus is just on the mum. I understand why, but dads are often an after thought even though they too go through a life changing process and have questions etc. For instance, why are dads just allowed to be around during visiting hours when it’s his wife and newborn? The Dadventurer
Consistency of care and more regular check ups feature highly on the wish list:
I would like to see the same appointments and checks for everyone regardless of whether it is first baby or tenth baby, I found with number 3, 4 and 5 they were very much ‘Oh you’ve done this all before’ however each pregnancy is so different that it doesn’t matter if I’ve done it before. Mum of Five Staying Sane
More scans. I had fortnightly scans with my twins and it made me realise how I was really left to it with my son. My friend is pregnant and she was scanned at 12 & 18 weeks and that’s it. That’s a long time for things to change so I personally think another later scan would be a brilliant change. Twinderelmo
Consistency! I feel like I never saw the same doctor or midwife twice throughout pregnancy and the birth itself. If I had of had consistency maybe they wouldn’t have missed problems and I might have felt less uneasy. Hi Baby Blog
More regular care and checks for ladies considered ‘high risk’ or those under consultant care. Due to the lack of midwives in our area, I don’t feel I saw my midwife enough despite being consultant led. The Hart of the Munchkin Patch
To be given a midwife that you see every time whilst pregnant and beyond. I never saw the same one and therefore didn’t have a relationship or someone I could open up to. Dear Bear and Beany
I would like to see nationwide introduction of Midwife caseloading, so you have one midwife throughout your ante natal care and that midwife is on call for you when you go into labour. In tricky birth situations having a midwife you know and trust can *literally* (and I don’t use that word lightly) be life saving. When I gave birth to my daughter her shoulder got stuck and my midwife got very short and stern with me, commanding me to change positions and to push, she then had to get very ‘hands on’ with me and there was no time to prepare me, ask permission or check I was OK. Because I knew her back to front and inside out, trusted her and knew how much she cared for me, was against ‘purple pushing’ and *for* informed consent, I knew that she was only acting as she was because it was a real emergency. This meant I immediately did as she asked and worked with her to get my baby out which saved her life. Yes, I may have acted the same way with a midwife I didn’t know, but I may not have, or I may have been too scared to push like I needed to and I would DEFINITELY have felt traumatised and violated by what became a very scary and hands on birth. Live Oxfordshire
To centralise pre-natal care to one site. In our NHS trust I ended up having to go to 3 hospitals. I completely understand why I can only give birth in one, but why did I need to go to a different town for an ultrasound when my local hospital had the facilities to do it? Was really difficult because I didn’t drive and I had bad sciatica so getting on and off buses wasn’t an option. Luckily R’s work was flexible so he drove me and when he couldn’t his mum was available. The Diary of an Unexpected Mother
More support for mums who’ve had problems first time around. I only found out at 39 weeks i should have been offered the c section choice earlier in my pregnancy due to complications I had with James. Mummy to my Little Cheeky Monkey
I’d like to see more communication between different teams. I’m under consultant care and a diabetic team and end up having to answer the same questions at every appointment because they don’t seem to link up with each other. In the last two weeks I’ve had four appointments in two hospitals miles apart because the teams aren’t even based in the same place. Each time, the consultant has said the diabetic team will put a plan in place, while the diabetic team say they’ll wait and see what plan the consultant decides on. I’ll have given birth before anyone settles on an answer! Baby Holiday
Support for feeding is a really big issue, and one that many people feel strongly about, whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed. Giving birth doesn’t mean you naturally know how to feed this new life, or to provide them with their everyday care.
I would like to see more support for mums who are bottle feeding . As I wasn’t breastfeeding I found that I wasn’t supported at all with feeding. Beauties and the Bibs
I would like to see more support with breastfeeding, especially if we are struggling and wanting support. I did not get enough support and it really influenced and impacted my role as a mother and ruined a precious opportunity for me. Days in Bed
I feel as though I wasn’t given enough information as to what labour would be like, and I was pushed to go to MLU (Midwife Led Unit) with my first, even though there was no special care baby unit there, or any doctors to perform certain tasks that are sometimes needed during labour – the nearest is 45 minutes away. I wasn’t given enough information about medication, and was unaware of what was available. I was also not helped at all with my birth plan so didn’t know what I was doing with it. I asked how to write it, and they said: “Just put what you want.”However, with me not knowing what was available, or what format the birth plan needed to be, I found myself feeling a little clueless. I also had no idea how to care for baby, in terms of how much they need to feed, how to change them etc. My birth ended up going wrong, and I had to go to the hospital 45 minutes away, and skip the local MLU all together! And I had an epidural (good job I didn’t go to the place I was pushed to go to!) Chasing Esme
Screening for Strep B is something I feel really strongly about too – I think it should be offered as a routine test. It’s so quick and so simple, but could save lives. Another routine check that we should see being offered for all newborns is a tongue tie check – it could save so many breastfeeding journeys.
Screening for strep B. I had it with both of my little babe’s but luckily I knew. So many mum’s don’t know they’re carrying the infection which can be fatal for their tiny baby’s life (ps it’s not something you can catch, it’s an infection present in your genetics). I feel really strongly that every mum should be screened or given the option even if it means us paying the small fee. First Tooth
I feel that all babies should be checked for tongue tie at birth. It is a two second check and had they checked my baby it would have saved me two weeks of hell with a baby who hit dangerous levels due to weight loss. The Adultier Adult
Birth plans can be a really useful tool during your labour, but what happens when things go wrong? I really needed to sit down with someone after my crash section, to talk through what had happened and why. At the time, it all happened so fast, and I didn’t really understand why the decisions were made.
Would be great if they explained what had happened during your birth especially for things like a crash section (why they had to etc.) I didn’t find out till 4 years later and only because I was pregnant and they thought the same things would happen again. Not my year off
A time to go through your birth plan and really be listened to about your wishes. My first birth was an awful experience as I felt so ignored, hence opting for a home birth second time. The Mini Me’s and Me
We all know that midwife units and hospitals are critically understaffed, but this can have such an impact on maternity care.
More midwives and staff, I went in on the Saturday morning at 8am to be induced. I couldn’t head upstairs to delivery until the Sunday evening as there was no spare midwives upstairs to help. So I was held off given the drip longer than I should have in my opinion and ended up having an emergency c-section 14 days overdue on the Monday afternoon. Rachel Bustin
I think instead of centres closing down more should be opening. It can be so difficult for people who don’t have centres locally, especially if they don’t drive. This sort of service should be easily accessible for everyone. Mama Mummy Mum
Most parents just want their babies close to them after the birth, but all too often they are swaddled up in a crib out of your reach. I found it really difficult after my C sections to be able to get out of bed and get to my baby, and didn’t feel I could keep ringing the bell to ask for them to be passed to me.
More bedside cribs and allowing mums to co sleep. Kids, Kicks and Cloth
More advice about how to co sleep safely so new parents don’t feel they have to lie to their health visitors, education rather than judgement. Chilling with Lucas
Postnatal care is as important as the care provided during pregnancy and labour, but all too often we can feel as though we are sent home to ‘get on with it’.
Proper postnatal care – popping round for 10 minutes to see if ‘you’re doing well’ isn’t enough. How can a midwife or HV see if a new mother is managing and doing well with a ten minute visit? Rock & Roll Pussycat
For those tragic times when things go wrong. For those who have lost babies, there needs to much better care all round. They need help, support and advice, as well as understanding staff.
Somewhere different for mums who have stillborns to go. My sister went in to labour at 20 weeks and gave birth to her baby who didn’t survive. She was then transferred to a ward that was full of new mums smiling and their babies crying, whilst she had to lay there silent and crying with her dead baby in her arms. Adventures of a Yorkshire Mum
Somewhere private to sit and wait should things go wrong. After a miscarriage I had to sit crying for 2 hours with all the other patients and pregnant ladies awaiting to see a consultant and for blood tests. Emmys Mummy
I would like to see more support and help for those who miscarry. We lost our first at 8 weeks and apart from the scan to confirm loss and being told to contact the birth centre if I didn’t get a negative test after 2 weeks there was nothing. I don’t mean therapy or anything but just some sort of support, maternity check in, more info and education about it, I was so stressed about getting pregnant again it would have been nice to have had a bot mote early on support in that sense. Two Hearts One Roof
The most important thing to remember is that this is YOUR body, YOUR pregnancy, YOUR birth and YOUR baby. YOU can make the decisions, and the healthcare staff should be there to support that.
As with ALL healthcare: a removal of the idea of healthcare providers “letting you” or “allowing you” to do certain things. A change in the language to make it clear to everyone that you have a choice in every situation and it’s our job (as health care professionals) to advise and support, not to instruct. 2 boys 1 mum
More information available about our rights, not many people know that you are entitled to the birth you want, you can always opt for a homebirth and they have a duty of care towards you. The Mummy Adventure
What experiences have you had with the NHS maternity services? I would love to hear your thoughts – positive and negative – and how you would like to see things change in the future.