Growing numbers of women and midwives complain that maternity services are becoming increasingly impersonal, with 1 in 3 women insufficiently involved in decision-making during their pregnancy. Poor experiences of antenatal care are linked to poor outcomes during birth and the postnatal period, including higher Caesarean section rates, postnatal depression and an increased likelihood of health problems for babies. A 22% rise in birth rates at a time of increasing financial strain for the NHS means that there is an immediate need for more efficient and effective antenatal care.
Our role is centred on empowering and enabling women to take more ownership over their pregnancy. Our work with expectant mothers and health professionals has shown that increasingly medicalised, impersonal antenatal care is leading to poor quality experiences for women, and low morale amongst frontline professionals. In response to this we helped re-design maternal care services in two sites, UCL’s Euston hospital and Barts’ Barking Birth Centre.
The end result of the program will be the demedicalisation of maternity services in these two sites, which will transform the role of their midwifes and greatly improve outcomes for the women using the services. These new services focus on group consultations and building social networks, both in person and online, to allow expectant mothers to connect meaningfully with health staff and mutually support one another. Increased engagement will ensure that women from all backgrounds will be supported, drastically decreasing inequality across maternity care and reducing unnecessary reliance on health services. Reduced reliance and improved efficiency in maternal care, coupled with a preventative approach that improves health and social outcomes for women and babies over the long-term, will significantly drive costs down for both sites.
The project focused on prototyping group appointments in the two sites; with midwives acting as faciliators of each small group. This model frees up time for midwives usually taken up by administration and delivery of basic pregnancy information; which often leaves very little room for patients to ask questions or discuss concerns. It also helps to make pregnancy less clinical and instead more social and open.
We also worked with Concentra to develop two websites for pregnant women in the area. Mums-talk.com is a social networking website; designed so that women can connect to others that they met in their antenatal classes; and share tips, stories and advice with one another.
My Pregnancy Journey provided useful, accesible and localised information to mothers-to-be receiving care from the two sites. Women can learn about all aspects of their pregnancy and labour, find local baby-friendly services and map their pregnancy milestones, appointments and scans onto the journey map.
The M(ums)Power program will be continue to be refined, and a strategy is currently being developed to expand its innovative antenatal services to the rest of North Central and Northeast London, and then eventually nation-wide.