A recent survey of midwives and maternity support workers in the UK, found that the majority were stressed because of their workload and fearful of making mistakes because of exhaustion. Over half of those surveyed had observed errors and incidents which could have caused harm to women and their infants. These stressors are not restricted to the UK. I hear similar concerns from Australian midwives.
This situation is untenable for the midwives and the women and families in their care.
It's about time governments and funding decisions reflect and respect the vital importance of childbearing to the fabric of society and fund maternity care appropriately.
Better staffing levels are required.
Staffing of maternity services decisions need to be made in acknowledgement of:
- The increasing complexity of maternity care
- The fundamental requirement for adequate time for antenatal visits
- One-to-one care from a known midwife in labour
- The need for adequate postnatal care
Midwifery Continuity models for women of all 'risk' are what's required.
Whatever model of maternity care is provided however, there must enough staff to provide the service safely - safely for women, their infants and safely for the midwives.
Midwives are dedicated professionals and consistently go above and beyond to care for women and their infants. That dedication should not be exploited. The current practice of staffing to the bare minimum, putting midwives on call after they've already had a full day at work in case there's an increase in activity, coupled with the ever-expanding list of mandatory education and competency requirements means the demands on midwives are creating a pressure cooker environment.
Running midwives 'ragged' is not good government or health service policy.
Appropriate and adequate funding of maternity care is essential.
We have a duty of care as a society to care for midwives and other maternity health care providers so they can care for the women and families they work with in the best possible way.
The future depends upon it.