Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

CQC reports decline in positive maternity experiences

The findings of CQC’s latest national maternity survey has revealed a ‘concerning decline’ in women’s experiences of maternity services.

Fewer women feel they always got the help they needed during labour and birth and a significant number reported that they did not feel listened to when raising concerns.

Birthrights Chief Executives Shanthi Gunesekera and Janaki Mahadevan said:

The findings of the latest CQC maternity survey, demonstrate the importance of care that centres choice, dignity, and respect.

The rise in the percentage of women and birthing people who felt they were not always involved in decision making, not offered choice in where to have their baby, nor felt listened to if they raised a concern demonstrates a systemic failure to uphold basic human rights. 

It is positive to see the majority of women and birthing people questioned felt they were treated with respect and dignity. However, we know that this is not felt across the board. Concerningly from the persistent gap in maternal mortality and morbidity rates we know that Black, Brown, and mixed ethnicity women and birthing people are disproportionately impacted by systemic inequalities in maternity care.

Through our year-long inquiry into racial injustices in maternity services we heard from people who felt unsafe, were ignored, and disbelieved, were subject to racism by caregivers, were not given a proper choice or the means to give true informed consent, and were subject to coercion from caregivers, and were regularly dehumanised. 

Care that centres human rights is vital for a safe and positive maternity experience. We will continue to work with those that manage and deliver maternity care as well as providing expert advice to empower professionals and women and birthing people to uphold human rights in maternity care.

The CQC Maternity Survey 2022 capture what people using maternity services in 2022 felt about the care they received while pregnant, during labour and delivery, and once at home in the weeks following the arrival of their baby.

The CQC Maternity Survey 2022 report at a glance

  • Just under a fifth (19%) of women said they were not offered any choices about where to have their baby. Choices offered to pregnant women may have still been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The proportion of women and birthing people who felt they were given appropriate advice and support when they contacted a midwife or hospital at the start of their labour, decreased from 87% in 2017 to 82% in 2022
  • 77% of women and birthing people who responded to the survey said if they raised a concern during labour and birth, they felt it was taken seriously, down from 81% in 2017
  • 59% of women and other pregnant people were always given the information and explanations they needed during their care in hospital, down from 66% in 2017
  • 71% felt they were ‘always’ being treated with kindness and understanding whilst in hospital after the birth

Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.