Many new mums leave hospital too soon, say midwives

Woman and her baby in hospital Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption In a survey of midwives, most said women do not receive the post-natal care they need

A survey by the Royal College of Midwives suggests that up to 40% of women may be being discharged from hospital before they are ready after having a baby.

The report, entitled Postnatal care planning, says the needs of women and babies after birth are not being met.

More midwives are required to ensure women get the post-natal visits they need, the RCM says.

Surveys of mothers and midwives were used to compile the report.

The RCM surveyed more than 2,000 midwives, 950 student midwives and 98 maternity support workers to find out their views on post-natal care.

Sixty-five per cent of midwives surveyed said the number of post-natal visits was determined by organisational pressures rather than women's needs.

This is contrary to official guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the RCM says.

'Massive impact'

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said this had an impact on the care women received.

"The continuing shortage of midwives particularly in post-natal care and the need to ensure cover for women in labour means that organisational needs are preventing midwives giving care based on clinical need and women are not getting the best possible post-natal care.

"This can have a massive impact on the health and well-being of the mother and her baby after the birth and well into the future."

Midwives also say that there is often not enough time to give women all the information they would like to about post-natal care.

In the survey, only a third of midwives and maternity support workers said they had enough time to talk to women about their post-natal care.

The report also highlights the views of nearly 500 women in the UK who were surveyed via the Netmums website in 2013. Around 40% felt they had been discharged too quickly, a figure the RCM described as "a real concern".

NICE recommends that the "length of stay in a maternity unit should be discussed between the individual woman and her healthcare professional, taking into account the health and well-being of the woman and her baby and the level of support available following discharge".

Cathy Warwick said: "We are seeing women being discharged earlier without adequate support. This leads to readmissions later on and more cost to the NHS.

"This is a false economy. It is not good for women and babies and it is not good for the NHS."

The report is the fourth in a five-part series from the Royal College of Midwives looking at post-natal care.

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