Express & Star

In her own words: Stafford MP welcomes baby trauma report

Stafford MP Theo Clarke reflects following the release of the report into birth trauma.

Theo Clarke with her newborn baby

The release of the report into birth trauma has led to widespread media coverage, comment and welcome action from the government.

It is a fitting culmination to a year-long campaign that all started when I told my own story of a harrowing labour where I thought I was going to die giving birth to my daughter.

That story struck a chord with so many women and I knew something needed to be done to improve care and end the postcode lottery of maternity services in this country that fail far too many women.

Over this year, I have held the first ever birth trauma debate in parliament and I set up and chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the subject.

I have been supported by many groups including Mumsnet – who published my first survey on birth trauma last summer - and especially the quite brilliant Birth Trauma Association.

Alongside my co-chair Rosie Duffield MP we held the cross-party inquiry this spring that has led to the government committing to a National Maternity Improvement Strategy - one of the key recommendations in the report.

The inquiry heard evidence from 1,300 women and many experts and the report is as much theirs as it is ours. Without their bravery in coming forward and telling quite terrible stories of what happened to them, its impact would have been so much less.

I have since had the honour of hosting the official launch of the report in the House of Commons.

Stafford MP Theo Clarke

It was emotional listening to the women who have stood with me, tell their stories to a packed room of MPs and others and to feel their sense of relief to finally have been listened to after so many years. This is a memory I will cherish.

But we have so much left to do. Our report made it clear that good maternity care is "the exception rather than the rule". The challenge is to turn that statement around. The government has agreed to the improvement strategy and is working to ensure other recommendations in the report are achieved.

For example, the Health Secretary announced that the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NICE) will commission new research into the economic impact of birth trauma, including how this affects women returning to work.

Recommendations around the expansion of mums’ mental health services, the six-week GP check-up for mums and importantly the retention and recruitment of midwives were all accepted or being worked on so we have had real success in starting the journey to end this postcode lottery.

However, we have asked for a Maternity Commissioner, reporting to the Prime Minister, to be appointed and work will continue to make that case alongside more work to ensure that women from ethnic minorities receive better care. Mum and baby death rates in these communities remain higher than for white people and are completely unacceptable.

The scale of the problem is really highlighted in these worrying figures. An estimated 20,000 women a year develop postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder following difficult births.

Some 65 percent of the NHS's budget to cover clinical negligence claims totalling £69.3billion in 2022-23 were related to maternity and neonatal liabilities. This money should be spent on better care.

Despite the success this week, there can be no pause, the work must continue.

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