More mums-to-be to get the same midwife through pregnancy and birth

Having the same midwife throughout pregnancy and birth can bring benefits for women and babies.
Having the same midwife throughout pregnancy and birth can bring benefits for women and babies.
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More women in Lancashire are to be given the chance to be seen by the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and at the birth of their baby.

NHS trusts across the county have committed to offering so-called “continuity of care” to 20 percent of mums-to-be by next March - with the aim of providing it to the majority of women two years later.

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It is part of a local plan to implement a national policy for care which is focused on the needs of the individual throughout their pregnancy.

A board meeting of the trust which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals heard that having a dedicated midwife during pregnancy and delivery has been shown to reduce the risk of premature or still births.

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“The vision is for a more personalised service,” said Cathy Atherton, Head of Midwifery at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH). “It’s not rocket science - anybody would [agree with it], but it’s not always happening.”

But members were warned that those working in the profession would have their lives transformed by the overhaul. Cathy Atherton described the “sea change” which would face midwives themselves - because of the unpredictability of most births.

“One week, a midwife could be working 75 hours and the next week 25. Some have already told us that they think it’s a great idea, but won’t be able to do it - because they have children of their own,” she added.

It is for that reason that universal continuity of care will not be provided - but midwives in training are being told to expect a different way of working in future.

Lancashire currently offers the full range of birthing options across a dozen sites in the county - as well as home births. Almost 18,000 babies were born in the region in 2016/17.

LTH was recently named amongst the best providers of training for junior doctors specialising in obstetrics (childbirth) and has also been involved in a pilot scheme to improve safety during pregnancy and delivery.

But the meeting heard that the best measures are sometimes about adopting the mindset of a new mum.

“If a woman had to go to theatre after birth for any reason, the baby would previously have been left with its dad in a room, “ Cathy Atherton explained.

“How do you feel if you’ve just given birth and you’re taken away from your baby? It can affect how a woman bonds with her child, so now the baby goes to the theatre, too.”

Transformation of maternity services is one of three national priorities which have been set for regional NHS collaborations - the others are cancer and mental health.