Private Business Intermediaries

Maternity Buddies

04/12/2012 | By Sharmila Chauhan

Giving birth is a life changing experience and as popular television shows such as One Born Every Minute and its equally successful follow-on One Born Every Minute – What Happened Next suggest, new parents often have a difficult time adapting to their new role.

New parents often complain they feel ill prepared for what lies ahead and overwhelmed. On study reported that 58% of mothers feel that they may never ’get the hang’ of being a parent. Supporting new parents, can have a positive impact on emotional health of the new parent. In fact, it has been suggested that offering proactive, individualised telephone-based peer (mother to mother) support can be effective in preventing postnatal depression among women at high risk.

The Department of Health has recently reported that there is a need to focus on psycho-social aspects, not just of birth, but also beyond to infancy. Currently the NCT runs a number of community schemes to help new parents.

However, a new mother may already find herself isolated and demoralised by the time she gets home from hospital, and therefore unable to engage with services. Current thinking believes that supportive services for new mothers should begin in the hospital. Yet, currently in the NHS, there are very few provisions for individualised attention for a new mother. Breast feeding classes are over subscribed and with nurses working hard to keep basic standards running. Despite that fact that the number of births has increased by over 21% between 2001 and 2010; the number of midwives only increased by around 15%, from 18,048 to 20,790. The Royal College of Midwives has voiced serious concerns about the lack of midwives and the effect this has on the level of care. The CQC report, has found that one in 10 institutions were failing to meet staffing standards.

One solution is to recruit volunteers. In Wales, the hospital has recruited volunteers to offer support to new mothers. The "maternity buddies" scheme at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, offers advice and support to new mothers. The volunteers, who do not provide any ‘medical advice’ are there to carry meals and help the mother – they can not however provide practical support and can not actually even change a nappy. Whilst maternity buddies are certainly a step in the right direction – they can not be a substitute for experienced medical staff.

So what are the options for new mothers? Private healthcare prides itself on providing individualised care. Our research does suggest that patients in private care may find themselves better supported than those on the NHS. At the private suite at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, the ratio is one midwife to every four patients. With midwives providing new mothers with care and assistance with everyday tasks such as bathing and showering.  They also provide specialist help with adjusting to the role of a new mother, with parenting advice, teaching and newborn baby care. A spokesperson said:   “We recognise that the transition to motherhood is a special life event and one that we feel privileged to support. The midwives and staff are dedicated to helping make this special time as enjoyable as possible for parents.”

The Lansdell Suite a private maternity suite at St Thomas Hospital is staffed 24 hours a day with a minimum of 2 midwives and 1 maternity support worker or health care assistant. “We provide all round care to mothers before and after birth. We offer a 24 hour service with obstetric, midwifery, physiotherapy, neonatal and anesthetics support including monitoring of the physical and emotional wellbeing of the mother and baby post birth.  We also offer new mothers promotion, education and support with breastfeeding and baby care.”

The private sector does seem well prepared to meet with the physical and emotional needs of new parents. Although Maternity Buddies are a significant step in the right direction – the NHS needs to mobilise funds to ensure staff are able to support new mother's in what lies ahead.