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Wednesday, January 21, 1998 Published at 01:45 GMT


Mums unhappy with maternity care
image: [ Women want more information about their options and care ]
Women want more information about their options and care

Almost half of women are not completely happy with the care they receive during pregnancy, labour and after the birth of their child, according to a new report.

A survey of almost 2,500 women in England and Wales by the independent spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, found that only between 50% and 60% strongly agreed that the care they received was good.

And standards in maternity care varied significantly from one region to another.

[ image: Maternity care varies significantly from one region to another]
Maternity care varies significantly from one region to another
The number of antenatal appointments, operations to assist childbirth and length of time women stayed in hospital following the birth varied from one area to another, the study found.

For example, in the North 36% of women have more than 16 antenatal visits compared with 41% in the South East who have 10 or under.

And whereas 15% of women in the South West and North West stay in hospital six days or more following the birth, in East Anglia 23% of women go home within 24 hours.

The maternity service most likely to be criticised was hospital postnatal care, the report found.

Areas of particular concern were the contradictory advice given about breast feeding and low staffing levels.

In common with other studies, the survey shows that women want more information about their options and about the care that is provided before, during and after birth.

The report calls for improvement in maternity services but not a standardisation of the service.

Call for higher standards

It states: "A uniform approach is not the goal, since different places have different populations and services will choose to give priority to different aspects of care.

"Equity, though, should be an important consideration when care is looked at nationally."

The survey, which includes over 1,000 additional written comments, is the largest carried out to date on the views of women who have used maternity services.

It found that one in four mothers whose babies were admitted to a neo-natal unit had been given little or no information about equipment and procedures.

And one in five of the women questioned said their baby's problems were not discussed with them.

The survey also found that many women use more than one method of pain relief, the most common being gas and air - used by 75% of women - with 27% having an epidural.

A spokesman for the National Childbirth Trust said the findings of the survey came as no surprise and echoed the complaints made to the trust.

He said: "Regional variations are a cause for concern and it is an all but impossible task to guarantee the same level of care in every part of the country."

"However, services could be evened up."

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National Audit Commission

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