Having consistent healthcare support during pregnancy, labour and after your baby’s born can make the world of difference. Here’s why…
What is continuity of care?
As a term, continuity of care might sound pretty vague. But what it really means is that you’ll have the same healthcare professionals supporting you in pregnancy, labour and postnatally (NICE, 2006, 2008; Sandall et al, 2016). That way you get to know these professionals and feel comfortable, and they get to know what your wishes are for labour and beyond (NICE, 2012).
Ideally, you would have one midwife who you’d see throughout your pregnancy, during labour and birth, and after your baby is born too. In reality, a small group of healthcare professionals may be more likely and is still a strong option (NICE, 2008). This group of professionals will include someone who gives you one-to-one care when you’re in established labour (NICE, 2014).
What are the benefits of continuity of care?
If you’re wondering why continuity of care matters, here are all the important differences that it’s been found to make. Women who have strong continuity of care are:
- less likely to have an epidural
- less likely to have an episiotomy
- less likely to have a birth assisted by forceps or ventouse
- less likely to be induced
- less likely to have premature births
- at lower risk of losing their baby.
(Sandall et al, 2016)
And here are the benefits when there is continuity of care during labour… Women have:
- more chance of spontaneous vaginal birth
- a shorter duration of labour
- a reduced chance of caesarean birth
- a reduced chance of forceps or ventouse
- less use of any pain relief
- a reduced use of epidural pain relief
- a better chance of healthier babies
- a lower chance of negative feelings about the whole birth experience.
(Bohren et al, 2017)
How can I make continuity of care more likely?
If you’re worried about seeing a steady stream of different midwives during your pregnancy, speak to them about it at your first appointment (NFWI and NCT, 2017). You could also visit your local NHS trust website to see whether continuity of care is mentioned there. You’re more likely to be given continuity of care if you’re planning a home birth or wish to give birth in a midwife-led unit.
Another option is choosing an independent midwife. This guarantees that you’ll get continuity of care too but of course it will mean splashing out to pay for their services.
This page was last reviewed in September 2017.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
To find out more about your care during pregnancy, labour and post-birth, read about the role of healthcare professionals here.
Bohren MA, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, Cuthbert A. (2017) Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (7):CD003766. Available at: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub6/full [Accessed 18th September 2017]
NFWI; NCT. (2017) Support overdue: women’s experiences of maternity care. Available at: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/Support_Overdue_2017.pdf, [Accessed 18th September 2017]
NICE. (2006) Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after the birth, CG37. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg37/chapter/1-Recommendations, [Accessed 18th September 2017]
NICE. (2008) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies, CG62. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62/chapter/1-Guidance [Accessed 18th September 2017]
NICE. (2012) Patient experience in adult NHS services: improving the experience of care for people using adult NHS services, CG138. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/CG138/chapter/1-Guidance#continuity-of-care-and-relationships [Accessed 18th September 2017]
NICE. (2014) Intrapartum care for health women and babies, CG190. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190, [Accessed 18th September 2017]
Sandall J, Soltani H, Gates S, Shennan A, Devane D. (2016) Midwife-led continuity models versus other models of care for childbearing women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (4):CD004667. Available at: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004667.pub5/full [Accessed 18th September 2017]