NICE has said today that vulnerable women including teenage mothers, domestic abuse victims, drug users and non-English speakers are missing out on vital care in England and Wales and were the least likely to use antenatal services despite being the most in need.
NICE said the health service needed to become more flexible and welcoming and should take a range of steps, including providing antenatal classes in schools and colleges, to ensure more women from difficult backgrounds accessed antenatal care thereby helping to prevent complications and potentially save the lives of these mothers and their babies.
They have also said NHS trusts should commission antenatal care and education in peer groups in a variety of settings, such as GP surgeries, children's centres and schools. As well as calling for more interpreters for those with difficulty speaking English, out-of-hours contacts, a text-messaging service to remind women of appointments and one-on-one sessions to allow sensitive subjects to be discussed.
Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive, NCT, said:
“We know vulnerable women are much more at risk. They are the least likely to attend traditional antenatal appointments, so once they are pregnant we need to ensure they have the best experience they can, to enable them to become skilled and confident parents.
“If implemented, this guidance has real potential to make maternity services more effective in reducing health inequalities. It provides clear recommendations to make maternity care more accessible and responsive to the complex needs of vulnerable women who can often slip through the net.
“NCT particularly supports the emphasis on multi-agency working to ensure holistic care provision and improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable pregnant women and their partners and children.”