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More than half of women are less likely to have children because of their experience of maternity care

New research from Mumsnet has found that the vast majority of mothers have experienced physical or psychological birth trauma, with more than half (53%) saying they are less likely to have more children because of their experience of maternity care.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 15, 2023


The survey, published to coincide with the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Birth Trauma, found that 79% of women experienced birth trauma, with 53% experiencing physical trauma and 71% experiencing psychological or emotional trauma. Nearly three quarters (72%) of those who experienced trauma said it took more than a year to resolve or was still ongoing.

The survey also found that women who experience birth trauma are not being appropriately supported by health service staff.

  • 86% of women who experienced birth trauma agreed that healthcare providers are desensitised to birth trauma and 75% of women feel healthcare providers don’t do everything they can to prevent birth trauma occurring.

  • Nearly half of women (46%) who experienced birth trauma said providers used language ‘which implied I was a failure or to blame’.

  • 65% of women who had experienced birth trauma previously said it was not acknowledged by staff.

The survey also exposed substandard post natal care for new mums. Nearly a fifth of women (19%) were not offered a six week check by their GP (as per the GP contract). Of those that had a 6 week check, only 37% of GPs covered both mental and physical health - despite 78% of women experiencing struggles with mental health postnatally. 60% of those who experienced tearing did not have a telephone check with a specialist midwife at day 7-10, and nearly a fifth (18%) of women who experienced tears were not offered a home visit within 2 weeks of the birth with a health visitor.

Nearly half of women (49%) said they felt unsafe during postnatal care.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet Founder and CEO, said:

“We hear daily on Mumsnet from women who have had deeply upsetting experiences of maternity care, and this latest research underlines that the majority of mothers experience birth trauma - whether physical or psychological. This trauma has long lasting effects and it's clear that women are being failed at every stage of the maternity care process - with too little information provided beforehand, a lack of compassion from staff during birth, and substandard postnatal care for mothers' physical and mental health.

"This is not solely an issue of staffing or funding. It is a cultural problem which sees women belittled and undermined, with their choices and experiences ignored. These failures of care would not be tolerated in any other part of the health service, and it is no coincidence that they repeatedly occur in a section of the NHS which exclusively treats women and their babies.

Last year’s Women’s Health Strategy was a welcome acknowledgement of how a misogynist, ‘male as default’ approach has let women down and put them in danger. But as our research shows, women are still all too frequently suffering as a result of substandard maternity care. The APPG for Birth Trauma has a vital role to play in raising awareness, sharing women's stories, and leading urgent action to tackle the decades of entrenched inequality in health.”

Survey of 1042 women between 25 July and 24 August 2023.