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17.09.14

Most deprived women receive the worst care when pregnant

Poor women get worse care during pregnancy, with the most deprived being 60% less likely to get antenatal care than the least deprived, a new study has revealed.

Researchers from Oxford University's National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit analysed the 2010 National Maternity Survey, which included findings from more than 5,300 women who had given birth in England.

The study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, also found that the most deprived women were 38% less likely to have been seen by a health professional prior to 12 weeks gestation and 47% less likely to report being able to see one as early as they desired.

The study authors believe their findings require action. “Having identified that poorer women have poorer maternal outcomes despite universal healthcare, the most important next step is the planning and development of strategies to address possible reasons for these differences in healthcare delivery and outcomes,” they say in the study’s conclusion.

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome this research, which confirms what has been, generally, known for some time. The facts and figures speak for themselves and continue to do so, especially in terms of mortality and morbidity among socially disadvantaged women. The challenge is that this group of women are the same women who do not have a voice, unlike a lot of women we see in our clinics. This group ask for little and get little, often because they do not know what services are available.

“Midwives around the country have shown that with continuity of care, kindness and empathy, the health outcomes for socially disadvantaged women dramatically improve. These women should have more access to a midwife, but this is not possible because of stretched NHS resources and the pressure on their time. Ideally, socially disadvantaged women need longer antenatal and postnatal appointments than are currently available. We need more midwives to address these challenges and provide continuity of care.”

The president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr David Richmond, echoed Silverton’s sentiments, saying that more consultants and midwives are needed to provide the recommended standards of care.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “All women should receive the best possible care during their pregnancy, regardless of their circumstances. Since 2010 we have introduced 1,700 more midwives, with 6,000 more in training and we are also making sure every woman has a named midwife to ensure personalised care throughout pregnancy.”

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