Women 'failed at every stage' of maternity care with 'many made to feel they were to blame'

Women are being "failed at every stage" when it comes to maternity care, say campaigners, as they call for more support for those experiencing traumatic births.

Mumsnet found 79% of the 1,000 women who answered their questionnaire had experienced some form of birth trauma, with 53% saying it had put them off from having more children.

And according to the snapshot of UK mothers, 44% also said healthcare professionals had used language implying they were "a failure or to blame" for what happened.

Conservative MP Theo Clarke is leading calls for more action after her own experience, where she thought she was "going to die" after suffering a third degree tear and needing emergency surgery.

Now, she has set up an all party parliamentary group on birth trauma.

She said: "[It is] clear that more compassion, education and better after-care for mothers who suffer birth trauma are desperately needed if we are to see an improvement in mums' physical wellbeing and mental health.

"It is vitally important women receive the help and support they deserve."

Of the respondents to the survey, 72% said the issue they experienced remained unresolved a year after giving birth.

Just over three-quarters said they felt like medical professionals had become "desensitised" to birth trauma, and almost two-thirds thought staff did not do everything they could to prevent it.

A total of 64% also said they felt a "lack of compassion" from health workers during their labour.

Chief executive of the online community, Justine Roberts, said the trauma had "long-lasting effects", adding: "It's clear that women are being failed at every stage of the maternity care process - with too little information provided beforehand, a lack of compassion from staff during birth, and substandard postnatal care for mothers' physical and mental health."

Chief executive of the Birth Trauma Association, Kim Thomas, said there needed to be a "complete overhaul in the way women experience maternity", including "honest, evidence-based antenatal education; compassionate and professional care during labour; and postnatal care that is designed to identify and treat every birth injury or mental health problem".

She added: "A maternity system that puts women at the heart of care is not some kind of unfeasibly high goal - it is the bare minimum that women have the right to expect."

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Responding to the findings, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government was "committed to making the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth" and improving support for women before, during and after pregnancy was a "priority" in its women's health strategy.

They added: "We are investing an additional £165m per year to grow and support the maternity workforce and improve neonatal care. NHS England recently published a three-year plan to make maternity and neonatal care safer, more personalised, and more equitable for women, babies, and families.

"To support women following trauma related to their maternity experience, we are rolling out 33 new maternal mental health services, which will be available across England by March 2024."