New mothers are not being warned about potentially life-threatening post-natal problems, warn midwife group

Almost half of women are not told about danger signs of conditions that may need emergency medical treatment, according to research by the Royal College of Midwives

Mothers who have just given birth are not being warned of postnatal problems which could put their lives at risk if undetected, according to new research by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

Nearly half (47 per cent) of women are not told about danger signs of conditions that may need emergency medical treatment. The finding is from a new survey of more than 400 women by the RCM and being released on Sunday.

Less than one in four (23.5 per cent) mothers can remember being given advice on what to look out for. And nearly two thirds (60 per cent) said they experienced feeling down or depressed after giving birth. 

The results are mirrored in a new survey of midwives by the RCM. A third (31 per cent) admitted women are rarely or never advised of the signs and symptoms of potentially life-threatening conditions that should prompt them to seek emergency treatment.

And more than half (58 per cent) of midwives, asked if they were happy with the standard of clinical postnatal care, said they would like to be able to do more.

Less than half (40 per cent) of midwives agreed they had enough time and resources to support the emotional wellbeing of new mothers.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “These surveys confirm some of my fears about the level and quality of postnatal care that midwives are able to provide and that women are receiving. We know from a recent survey of heads of midwifery that postnatal care is suffering because of midwife shortages.” She added: “We need to get postnatal care right and we need to get it right quickly.”

Risks of serious post natal infections or depression are among the conditions which can cost lives if left undetected and untreated, according to Ms Warwick.

Sudden or very heavy blood loss, a racing heartbeat, fever, abdominal pain or unpleasant vaginal discharge, are some of the things new mothers should be alert to. In the first few days after the birth women should also seek help if they have changes in vision, sickness, feeling short of breath or having chest pain, say medical experts.