Ensuring the provision of post-natal care remains in the hands of midwives is the best way to achieve this aim and guarantee a high quality service according to the panel of midwifery experts whose debate on the future of after-birth care was one of highlights of the annual RCM Conference [15/16 Nov].

Anne Fox from the National Childbirth Trust suggested that there had been an "overall decline in women-centred care over the past ten years" and added that fuelling yourself while pregnant was key to getting the best post-natal outcomes.

Relating the importance of effective antenatal care to starting your day with a good breakfast, she said: "Somebody burnt the toast in the NHS a long time ago ... starting well has been forgotten in the modern service."

Fellow speaker Debby Gould, Lead Midwife at UCLH, agreed saying that people in Britain take post-natal care for granted but providing women with access to the right information and choices is a key platform to maternal satisfaction.

Royal College of Midwives Chair, Gould, drew some criticism from members of the audience over her assertion that technology should in some cases replace the role of home visits, especially in rural communities with fellow midwife Caroline Harrisson of Manchester NHS Trust arguing that "midwives are key to replacing family structure where this is lacking".

Her ideas on further use of Skype and online resources were accepted as a necessary step but only for certain women in certain circumstances and the final panelist, Prof Debra Bick from King's College, said: "Revising practice is not rocket science, a few easy changes in communication could yield great improvements.

"Care basics are often ignored on post-natal wards leading to low expectations amongst expectant women, with 42 per cent of hospital births[surveyed by King's College] saying they received no emotional or physical support in the first 24 hours after birth.

"With two-thirds of maternal deaths taking place in the four months following birth, it's clear there need to be changes and if we don't change post-natal care we will lose it."

The fear that responsibility for post-natal care is being slowly shifted to health visitors and external, often online, resources was brought up several times during the debate which closed the Day One programme but Fox concluded: "It's critical to keep contact simple in such a hectic period.

"Many first-time mothers in particular are so focussed on the due date they just don't know what post-natal options are out there - greater integration of pre, post and perinatal.


Check back on www.jfhc.co.uk throughout the week for more exclusive videos and content from the RCM Conference 2011 including Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, ITV's Nina Hossain, Public Health Minister Anne Milton and RCM General Secretary Cathy Warwick.

Posted on November 16 2011 at 1840 by richard.hook@pavpub.com