A recent study undertaken jointly by the National Childbirth Trust and the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) has found that 50% of new mothers have experienced "red flag" events during labour. Examples of red flag events include: waiting more than 30 minutes to be given pain relief, waiting more than 1 hour to receive stitches following an episiotomy and women in labour being left without a midwife.

The findings of the report highlight that there is a chronic shortage of midwives and this is undermining the delivery of high quality care for women and their families. In the report mothers described their care as “robotic”, that they felt their treatment was “humiliating and degrading”, and said that they were treated as “a product on a conveyor belt”.

Louise Silverton, Director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives states "The fact that half of women have experienced a red flag event is hugely worrying. It is a sign of services under too much pressure, with too few resources and not enough staff. This ongoing shortage of midwives and underfunding of services is not delivering the service that women and their families need, and it is storing up health problems for the future that could be prevented."

The report is published only a day after Kent Coroner, Roger Hatch, ruled that “failures, inadequate diagnosis and treatment” by the maternity unit at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust led to the death of Frances Cappuccini after she gave birth to her son (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-38634044 ).

A spokesman for the Department of Health has recently been quoted as saying: “We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. There are over 1,500 more midwives on our maternity units since 2010, and more than 6,300 currently in training, with our changes to student funding creating thousands more training places by the end of this parliament.”

Going through labour can be a very traumatic experience for any women and negative experiences of childbirth can increase the risks for maternal postpartum depression and negatively affect a mother’s attitude toward future pregnancies and choice of delivery method. We can only hope that with further training and investment of funds, the services provided by our maternity units will improve.

If you, or anyone you know, has concerns about the quality of care received during childbirth, please contact a member of our clinical negligence team for a free, confidential discussion of your options at clinicalnegligence@freeths.co.uk / 01865 781000.

For further details: http://www.freethsoxford.co.uk/clinicalnegligence