Partner Support key to maternity experience for respondents in maternity survey

Embargoed 11am 1st October 2020

Many issues raised in the survey call pandemic restrictions on maternity services into question

AIMS Ireland today welcomes the publication of the results of the National Maternity Experience Survey which highlights the importance of partner support during antenatal care, labour, birth and the postnatal period.  In the largest survey of maternity care in the history of the state (carried out before Covid restrictions on partner support were implemented), the highest scoring question (95% positive score), in the Labour and Birth Section of the HIQA survey pertained to the support a partner gives and the impact of that support on the overall maternity service experience. 

The survey also highlights many of the issues that AIMS and maternity service users have been consistently  highlighting for the past 13 years.  These issues arose in the AIMS “What Matters To You survey” results in 2015 and also are reoccurring issues highlighted by people who contact our support service :

  • Negative Experiences: Many people (15% overall) are unhappy with their maternity care.  Drilling down into the survey this relates to care in hospitals under both public and private settings, although there appears to be more satisfaction with public service care.  Home birth services recorded the highest satisfaction rate from respondents.   Also noteworthy is the satisfaction rating of first time mothers, 18% of whom rated their experience as fair to poor.  Debriefing after negative experiences is also an issue.  30% of respondents said that they did not have the opportunity to ask questions about the labour and birth after their baby was born.  
  • Trust & Confidence: 10% of those surveyed said they did not feel involved in decisions made about their care in labour and birth and 8% said they weren’t involved in decisions made during their pregnancy. A further 9% felt they weren’t part of decisions made about their baby’s care.  28% of respondents did not always have confidence and trust in those caring for them during pregnancy and 3% of those (96 respondents) said they did not at any time have confidence and trust in their caregivers.  19% of those surveyed did not feel they were always treated with dignity and respect. 3% said they were not treated with dignity and respect.
  • Perinatal Mental Health: 32% of participants said that they had not received sufficient information about changes to their mental health during pregnancy. Once home, 29% of those surveyed said that their GP or practice nurse/midwife did not spend enough time talking with them about their mental health at their postnatal check-up.  This is of particular concern to AIMS as maternity service users routinely report to us a high incidence of symptoms of trauma following their birth experience.  Evidence suggests this will rise with the denial of birth partner support during the pandemic.
  • Choice in Maternity Care: 25% of respondents reported having no choice in maternity care.  Although the survey showed midwife-led care and home birth rated the highest in satisfaction scores, these options are the most limited maternity care option and  simply not open to a large cohort of pregnant people in Ireland. Home birth scored well above the national average for all stages of pregnancy and birth and for support with feeding the baby.
  • Emotional Support: Parents of babies receiving care in the Neonatal ICU report poor support levels.  26% said they sometimes felt supported and 23% said they did not receive enough emotional support.  90% rated the care their baby received in the neonatal unit as good or very good.

Responding to the launch of the HIQA report, AIMS Chair and member of the National Maternity Experience Survey Programme Oversight Board, Krysia Lynch said “Whilst the majority of respondents in the survey had a positive experience, we must never forget that every mother and baby that has a poor experience is not just a minor statistic but a dyad that will live with the physical and emotional after effects of their maternity care experience perhaps for a lifetime. Difficult issues facing users of the maternity services as outlined in this report are brought to our attention every single day at AIMS via our support service, and many of these issues have been raised by us numerous times directly to the HSE. The National Maternity Strategy was to go some way towards addressing these issues, however here we are almost half way through the implementation period and so few of the recommendations have been achieved.”

“AIMS would also have to question the currency of this survey”  continued Ms Lynch “when people’s experience of the maternity services have been catastrophically changed by restrictions put in place since the pandemic.  One simply has to look at the importance of partner support antenatally, during labour and birth and postnatally, as alluded to in this survey, to see this. AIMS Ireland will be launching our own survey of COVID related maternity care experiences next week.”

“AIMS welcomes what appears to be a higher number of people who report their informed consent being requested before any tests, treatments and procedures then had been reported in our previous survey in 2014/5.  We were disappointed however, on the first day of National Breastfeeding Week, to see 36% of respondents did not have an opportunity to discuss feeding opportunities during their antenatal care” she added.

“The survey shows a high rate of induction (39% said they were induced), a high rate of caesarean birth (34.2% of births) and a high rate of instrumental birth (14.4%) and paints a picture of a primarily highly medicalised, interventionist maternity service.  Evidence shows us that a person centred approach results in higher satisfaction levels and better obstetric outcomes.  AIMS would like to see more people reporting positive experiences, more people reporting they were offered choice and more people feeling supported in their choices be it in where and how to birth or in feeding their babies.  AIMS believes much of this can be achieved by simply listening to pregnant people and genuinely placing them at the centre of their care. We celebrate all those who work so hard in our maternity services and we urge every one of them to evaluate the survey results and be an agent of change.” added the AIMS Chair.

AIMS Chair Krysia Lynch will speak at a facebook live session discussing the findings of the Maternity Experience Survey at 3.00pm on Thursday October 1st at

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Krysia Lynch, AIMS Chair on 0877543751

Emily McElarney (AIMS PRO) on 0863856225

#NMCE ~maternity #partners #covid

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