AIMSI welcomes the Maternity Strategy for Ireland launched today 27th January 2016. by Minister Leo Varadkar. AIMSI was delighted to be able to participate in the steering group for the last nine months via its Chair Dr.Krysia Lynch.
The Maternity Strategy when implemented will offer women and their families increased choices in maternity care. Women who are experiencing a normal straightforward pregnancy will have the option of birthing at home, in an alongside birth centre or in a specialist birth centre. The first two options will offer women with a normal pregnancy a much increased chance of a normal birth, with interventions not being routine but only carried out on request or necessity, and where the lead carer will be a midwife.
Women who are of medium risk or of high risk will not have any increased choices, and will birth in an obstetric led specialist birth centre. AIMSI are disappointed that for women who have only transient risks or marginal increased risks there will be no choice in care setting as there is for example in the recently launched GAIN guidelines in Northern Ireland. AIMSI are further disappointed that free standing birth units are not recommended in this strategy, even though the evidence for their safety is stronger than for home birth, which the Strategy does recommend, and even though there was a clear overwhelming demand for in the public consultation.
AIMSI welcomes the Minister’s comments on perinatal mental health at the launch of this strategy and the need for increased service provision in this area that the strategy recommends. AIMSI also welcomes the increase in a community midwifery service that this Strategy recommends for antenatal, postnatal and intrapartum care as being cost effective, designed to meet the growing demand for women to have more care within the community and cognisant of the views of the many service users who took part in the consultation.
AIMSI welcomes the increased provision that the Strategy recommends for information and audit. The strategy recommends that evidenced based information be made available in a one stop shop for for women and that women be advised of their options at the start of their pregnancy using evidence rather than clinician preference. The Strategy also recommends that HIQA will annually audit the maternity services, which AIMSI welcomes.
The Strategy recognises the effect of birth trauma on women and the Minister made reference to this in his speech at the launch. AIMSI are delighted to hear that there will be recommendations to assist women who experience birth trauma, as so many of our calls come from women who have had traumatic experiences in our maternity services.
AIMSI are delighted to see that the Strategy recommends the provision of alongside birth centres even in smaller units. AIMSI also welcomes the provision made for smaller units to comply with dedicated home from home rooms to act as alongside birth settings with midwives as lead carers until an alongside birth centre can be built as this will ensure continued provision of maternity services in rural areas.
AIMSI welcomes the importance that this Strategy places on breastfeeding and its role in life long health. We welcome the recommendations that all hospitals achieve Baby Friendly Status and that women should have free access 24/7 to lactation consultants within hospital settings and also free access in the community.
Finally, AIMSI welcomes the provision made for service user representation in the implementation of the Strategy and in continuing review of the maternity services