“failing maternity services” – behind the headlines

This weekend the newspapers hit us with the headlines “3 out of 4 maternity services are failing”  naming the “11 greatest in need for improvement” – two of which (South Warwickshire and Wolverhampton) are in the West Midlands, causing a number of mums to contact us with their concerns.

So what did we tell them?

First of all ask yourself – what is behind the headlines and what matters to YOU??  What were those figures actually based upon?

Four “indicators” were taken into consideration..

  • Stillbirth and neonatal mortality
  • Maternal smoking at time of delivery
  • Experience of the woman
  • Choice

It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on stillbirth/neonatal mortality, as these numbers encompass in-utero deaths of babies that do not in anyway reflect upon the care given by midwives who go above and beyond to support parents throughout this harrowing time.  Likewise maternal smoking is the choice of the mother – not the midwife and so this particular indicator appears irrelevant for a mother choosing her place of birth.

However a woman’s experience and choices are incredibly important – fundamental birth rights that make a very “real” difference for all labouring women.

Across the West Midlands women have a vast array of options in terms of where to birth their baby.  Home, hospital and Midwife Led Units are available to all women – so how do you decide which is best for you?

Secondly – Women need to take responsibility for their own choices – and the biggest choice they will make in terms of birth will be “Where”.  Most women just go to their local unit, often because they don’t realise they have a decision to make – and mostly because they assume that all the units will be the same – but they aren’t!!!

Ask around – ask other mothers of their experiences – Facebook forums can be a great source of opinions (both good and bad)  Do they feel they received fabulous support and care – both in labor and postnatally?  Do they feel they were listened to regarding their preferences for labour and supported in the decisions they made?  (and if they don’t feel they were then encourage them to report this back to the Head of Midwifery for their unit! – improvements are often based on feedback).

If you have particular wishes for this birth then ask other mums in similar circumstances if they are achievable in the unit of your choice?


I want to homebirth outside of “medical advice” – will the local midwives be happy to attend me?

I am intending to have a VBAC and want to get in water – does this unit encourage this?

I want to have a delayed cord clamp even in the case of Caesarean section – does this feature in the local hospital guidelines and is it reflected in the actual day to day care?

My last child had feeding issues – does this unit offer consistent postnatal support – what do local women say?

I want to avoid C/Section – what is this units current section rate? 

Are birth plans respected as far as safely possible?


Finally – did you know that you can change your nominated place of birth right up to the end of your pregnancy?  Every unit across our region has strengths and weaknesses – it is crucial to try and match your expectations to the unit most able to offer you the choices you are hoping for.  If you have done your research and decided another unit may be a better option then give them a call and ask if you can visit.  This can often be arranged very quickly and may include a tour of their unit.

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