Midwives are under growing pressure

The RCM director says it is important that the government continues to invest in maternity services.
The RCM director says it is important that the government continues to invest in maternity services.

The increase in obesity levels, age of mothers in pregnancy and a big rise in midwifery vacancies is putting Scottish maternity services under pressure.

In its latest State of Maternity Services Report for Scotland the RCM says that levels of overweight and obese pregnant women topped 50 per cent for the first time last year.

Last year 51 per cent per cent of women pregnant women were overweight or obese.

Those women are more likely to require additional care and support throughout their pregnancy.

At the same time, the age of pregnant women in Scotland is also increasing. The majority (54 per cent) of Scottish babies born in 2017 were to women in their 30s or 40s.

Between 2000 and 2017 births to women in their early forties shot up over two-thirds (68 per cent), to 1,907 births.

As with obesity, older women will typically require more care during their pregnancy. The RCM wants to ensure these women get the additional care and support they may need.

Pressures on services are being affected by a quadrupling of midwifery vacancies in the last five years, rising from 1.3 per cent in 2013 to 5per cent in 2018.

There are particular concerns about vacancy rates in NHS Boards in the North of Scotland.

There are, though, many positive developments in Scotland’s maternity services.

The Scottish Government has heeded the concerns and lobbying of the RCM, increasing the number of student midwives significantly in 2017 and 2018.

The continuation of bursaries for student midwives has also been helpful in continuing to attract a high number of applicants to join the profession.

Mary Ross-Davie, Royal College of Midwives director for Scotland, said: “There are some great things happening in our maternity services in Scotland, not least the very ambitious Best Start maternity programme.

“The Scottish Government has also delivered real increases in the number of student midwives, which we welcome.

“What is important is that our government continues to invest in maternity services to ensure they can cope with current and future demand.

“The NHS, the Scottish Government, the RCM and others need to keep working together to identify the challenges and tackle them.

“We should be aiming for our maternity care to not just be among the best in the world, but to be the best.”