Public Health


The impact of NICE guidance on child birth

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care for NICE, talks us through the impact of their work and guidance on pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of a child’s life.

Having a baby can be one of the most personal and important parts of someone’s life. In 2016, more than 660,000 births took place in just England alone. NICE has had a key part to play in improving maternity care as we have developed a range of evidence-based products:  21 guidelines; 17 interventional procedures; 15 quality standards; two diagnostic guidances; one technology appraisal; and a medical technology guidance.

Together, these provide health professionals access to key information, ensuring parents receive the best, high quality care. Making sure maternity services across England are safe and personalised is a key part of our guidance, which is why we’ve published our second impact report looking how our work has influenced maternity services.

NICE first published maternity guidelines on antenatal care in 2003 and we’ve since provided advice on a broad range of topics aimed at improving care at each stage of pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of a child’s life.

Stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates in England have fallen by over 20% in the last 10 years. NICE’s recommendations on stopping smoking in pregnancy are a key element of NHS England’s focus on reducing stillbirths. Nearly half of pregnant women who smoked say they successfully quit after four weeks through the support of an NHS stop smoking service. Surveys carried out by the Twins and Multiple Births Association and National Childbirth Trust (NCT) found an increase in the proportion of women who reported receiving care in line with NICE’s recommendations for multiple pregnancies.

Diabetes in pregnancy has been another area covered by NICE guidance. We know around 2,400 women who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes get pregnant each year so supporting them is key. We developed a guideline on diabetes in pregnancy to help women and their families. Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF developed a toolkit based on this guidance which was the subject of our shared learning example, and is available from the charity website.

In 2016, NHS England commissioned the National Maternity Review to carry out a report looking into improving maternity services across the UK. The report titled ‘Better Births’ set out a vision for personalised care for women, their babies and their family. NICE recommends that women should have a choice of birth settings, and more alongside midwifery units are now available. Nearly 75% of trusts and boards offer women a choice of location for their antenatal appointments. Figures also show that 88% of women said they were always treated with respect and dignity during labour and birth.

Every parent wants their baby to receive the very best care. That’s why our evidence based guidance is important, as it sets out what best practice should look like. Using our guidance will make sure pregnant women feel supported, that their wishes are respected, and that they have access to high quality maternity services.

Top image: shironosov via iStock images 


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