More than a quarter of people questioned in a survey on the quality of maternity care said they felt midwives and doctors had a ‘dismissive’ or ‘not overly concerned’ attitude during their pregnancy and labour.
And more than 4 in 10 admitted to feeling reluctant to call them with their concerns – potentially putting the lives of themselves and their unborn babies at risk should any serious complications arise.
With the quality of birth care currently under the spotlight due to high rates of stillbirths in the UK, new national guidance was recently issued by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens in which midwives were told by NHS England to ‘better listen to warnings from expectant mothers’.
It came after a damning report last year, from an enquiry led by the University of Leicester, claimed more than 60 per cent of stillbirths in the UK might be avoided if midwives avoided basic errors and acted better on warnings from concerned parents.
Half were found to have occurred after women contacted maternity units themselves because they were fearful that their baby’s movements had slowed, changed or stopped, highlighting the need to listen to patients’ concerns.
Now, new research from medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who support many parents following traumatic and negligent care during birth, has revealed a worrying lack of perceived empathy and support from maternity teams towards patients across the country.
More than four in 10 Brits who took part in the survey said they felt reluctant, or didn’t call midwives and nurses during pregnancy with their concerns.
More than a quarter (26%) surveyed also said they felt the attitude of a doctor or midwife was dismissive or not overly concerned during the pregnancy. A quarter (25%) said they felt the same during labour itself.
Almost a fifth of British women (17%) revealed they had felt uncomfortable with the treatment they received while giving birth, and more than one in 10 Brits said they had experienced birth related injuries (15%) themselves, with almost a third (31%) admitting to being concerned about suffering injuries during birth while pregnant.
Helena Wood, a specialist in handling birth negligence claims at Hudgell Solicitors, says the results highlight a clear need for a change of approach by many maternity care providers across the country.
“This research suggests that, despite a mum-to-be often knowing when something is wrong through instinct and knowing their bodies, there is still some way to go in terms of making them feel that their concerns are being listened to, and acting on those concerns where necessary.
“We appreciate that midwives and doctors are the experts and that there are thousands up and down the country providing the very best care and support, often saving lives of mothers and babies when things don’t go smoothly. We also know that for many mums, pregnancy can be a worrying time, and often they will worry when things are fine.
“However, the other side to this is that there are still too many mothers feeling unable to raise their concerns, or that their concerns are not taken seriously, despite recent research and statistics pointing to a need for their concerns to be heard and considered.
“Unfortunately, a repeating issue we see with our clients, who sadly come to us when something has gone wrong during the birth of their child, is a feeling that concerns raised at stages of their pregnancy were too easily dismissed by midwives and doctors.
“We see the huge pain and devastation caused when a baby is stillborn, a pain which is only intensified when a family learns their baby could, and should, have been born healthy.
“Such errors and great loss often cause long-term emotional and psychological suffering for parents, as the loss of a baby is a life-changing event.
“We welcome the fact the Government has targeted halving the number of stillbirths by 2030, but for this to happen, it is clear that changes are required to ensure mothers’ concerns are taken seriously and appropriate action taken when necessary.”