She goes on to say “it can feel very traumatic to be pregnant and that’s not new. It’s something that we have experienced for many, many years and obviously, in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this, intervention rates have been going up exponentially.
When I started birth work most of my clients were able to choose the kind of birth that they wanted and now it feels like absolutely everybody has to put up with the cascades of unwanted intervention”.
Increased intervention rates add additional pressures to the system
Induction is just one form of intervention which has increased over recent years. Induction is the artificial stimulation of uterine contractions to promote the onset of labour. According to NHS Maternity Statistics (2020-2021) for England, since 2005-2006, induction rates have risen from 20.5% to 34.4%.
It’s important to recognise that the process of induction isn’t always simple or straight forward. It usually requires and inpatient admission, medications, additional monitoring and assessments, as well as a longer stay in hospital and a greater requirement for one-to-one care. The dramatic 14% rise in induction rates all adds to the stress on the maternity system. All this takes up precise staff time and resources which are already too short to go around.
The sharp increase in induction rates has been used in an attempt to reduce stillbirth rates, however the results are questionable as shown in Provisional births in England and Wales: 2021. The monthly stillbirth rates were higher than the five-year average in 7 of the 12 months in 2021.
Covid-19 – System in decline
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has also placed immense pressure to the already strained system.
Maddie explains that the pressures staff have been, and continue to be exposed to, are spiralling ‘out of control’.
Having worked as a birth activist for a long time, and worked on Hospital Committees, Maternity Voices Partnership Committees for many years, Maddie has witnessed from the inside the pressures that staff are facing.
She believes that pressures got to a point last year that were ‘untenable’.
She goes on to warn that the knock-on effects of these immense pressures, are that staff are buckling under the weight of it all.
“We know staff are leaving at massive rates, they are haemorrhaging out of the NHS, not just in maternity care.”