Thousands of mums-to-be in Lancashire are missing out on vital maternity care
Worrying number of pregnant women in Lancashire are not getting their first appointment with a midwife early enough, figures reveal, potentially missing out on crucial support for themselves and their baby.
The Royal College of Midwives says women living in deprived circumstances are particularly missing out on early maternity care, and has urged anyone to contact their local services as soon as they become pregnant to get the help they need.
Public Health England data shows 4,895 women in Lancashire did not have a midwife appointment within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2018-19, the latest period for which figures are available.
That was 38 per cent of those who had a first appointment during the year – the 15th-highest rate of 23 council areas in the North West.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which issues official guidance on health care, says pregnant women should see a midwife within the first 10 weeks
It is a chance to identify women in need of extra care due to family circumstances and other social factors, or medical history, and allows a midwife to do important tests and spot risks such as smoking.
Women who have their appointment after 20 weeks risk missing checks on their baby that can identify infectious diseases and other conditions, according to PHE.
Across the North West as a whole, 43 per cent of women seeing a midwife did not have their appointment in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy – the third-highest rate of England’s nine regions. Nationally, 42 per cent missed the 10-week window.
Lia Brigante, an advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We urge women to contact their local maternity services or their GP as soon as possible after they find out they are pregnant, so that the midwives can begin to support them with their pregnancy and discuss their care and choices.”
A spokesperson from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are pleased to confirm that in July 2020, 77.4 per cent of women were booked within our service by 9+6 weeks of pregnancy and 94.6 per cent were booked by 12+6 weeks of pregnancy.
“We always encourage women to seek antenatal care early in pregnancy and are pleased to confirm that the introduction of virtual booking methods in response to the Covid pandemic has supported this performance improvement within our service.”
The likelihood of a pregnant woman seeing a midwife within 10 weeks varied widely between areas.
Women in Bury were the most likely in the North West to miss out with 71 per cent not seen in time, compared to 25 per cent in Cumbria.
Ms Brigante said there could be many reasons why there is wide variation for when women have their first appointment.
She added: “Deprivation and inequality often contribute to this and some women could be unsure about how to contact their maternity services, for example if they recently came to the UK. For women who don’t have English as their first language, this could also be an issue.
“We are also concerned that some women who may be here as new migrants or asylum seekers are worried that they may be charged for their maternity care.”
She said there was a pressing need to target areas where rates were low to raise awareness among local women about their maternity services.