Birth Trauma Inquiry

The findings of the cross-party inquiry into birth trauma are simultaneously horrific, depressing and (hopefully) a wake-up call. Their Report entitled, ‘Listen to Mums: Ending the Postcode Lottery on Perinatal Care’, presents, once again, facts and experiences that have long been familiar to women and to professionals working in maternity care.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on birth trauma was set up on 9th January, 2024, with the brief of inquiring into the reasons for traumatic birth and tasked with developing policy recommendations for addressing it. The Group was led by Theo Clarke MP and Rosie Duffield MP and invited written submissions from parents and professionals. Submissions from people from marginalised communities were especially encouraged. 

The Report concludes: ‘The picture to emerge was of a maternity system where poor care is all too-frequently tolerated as normal, and women are treated as an inconvenience’. It further noted that the maternity system is one in which overwork and understaffing are endemic.

Appalling accounts in submissions made to the inquiry point to a lack of respect for women and a lack of trust on the part of professionals that women can read the messages their body sends out when something is wrong. The humiliation of being left in blood-stained garments and sheets, unable to reach out to their babies, is repeatedly dwelt upon. The almost total lack of mental health services for postnatal traumatised women is brought to the fore again and again.

Yet none of this is new. Lack of midwives has been a theme in maternity care for many years; so has the disrespectful way in which women from minority groups are treated. Increased emphasis on the importance of mental health has never been matched with funding for enhanced mental health services. 

Therefore, the recommendations of the Report, though worthy and apt, may perhaps be read with a touch of cynicism and even despair. These recommendations (abbreviated) include:

  • Recruit, train and retain more midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists.
  • Provide universal access to specialist maternal mental health services across the UK.
  • Respect mothers’ choices about giving birth.
  • Commit to tackling inequalities in maternity care among ethnic minorities, particularly Black and Asian women.

The Foreword to the Report reminds politicians that the issue of birth trauma ‘transcends party lines and it will be up to whoever forms successive Governments to listen and act’. With an election due at the end of the year, it is to be hoped that both major parties will include a commitment to listening and acting to improve maternity services in their manifestos, and that this will be followed up in the new Government’s first King’s Speech.

Read more: The Report, ‘Listen to Mums: Ending the Postcode Lottery on Perinatal Care’, can be accessed at:

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