Some mothers highlight post-birth maternity care as needing improvement

Vast majority of women report a positive experience in hospitals, according to survey

The period after birth was highlighted as an area requiring improvement in maternity care, according to according to the first national survey on the issue.

The vast majority of women giving birth in Irish hospitals have a positive experience of maternity care, according to the survey .

Of 3,200 women who responded to the survey, 85 per cent reported either a good or very good experience of maternity care.

Most said they were treated with dignity and respect, and had confidence and trust in staff. Respondents also spoke highly of the midwives and other staff who cared for them, both in hospital and in the community.


However, 15 per cent of women did not report a positive experience. The period shortly after birth was highlighted as an area requiring improvement, with some women saying they were not involved as much as they wanted to be in decision about their care after birth. Others said staff were often too busy to help them or answer their questions.

Some women said that they did not receive the physical, mental and emotional supports that they needed at this time, and would have liked more assistance to feed their baby.

The survey arose from a recommendation in the national maternity strategy and was carried out last February and March. Half of the 6,357 women who delivered babies in 19 maternity units and at home during this period responded.

Women who had previously given birth were more likely to have a positive experience. Sixty per cent of women said that they were offered a choice of the type of maternity care they would receive. Women who chose a home birth reported more positive experiences than women who gave birth in a maternity unit or hospital, though the number of home birth was small.

The national homebirth service, followed by Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe, scored highest among women for ante-natal care, and Mayo General Hospital the lowest.

The national homebirth service, followed by St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, scored highest for care during labour, though the differences in scores for hospitals were small.

Cavan General Hospital scored highest for care in hospital after the birth, while the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin scored lowest.

Asked about their overall experience, 83 per cent of women using the national homebirth service, and 63 per cent of woman attending St Luke's Hospital, rated them "very good". At University Maternity Hospital Limerick, just 43 per cent rated the experience very good.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it was important that what works well was now extended right across the system.

"Learnings from the survey must therefore be disseminated widely and acted upon in a timely manner. Of course, we must also ensure that we continue to listen to women's voices if we are to deliver the safe, compassionate and responsive maternity service that the women of Ireland expect and deserve."

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it was committed to making and monitoring changes at a local and national level.

In response to the review, the National Maternity Hospital said most women who gave birth there had a positive overall experience

“The feedback from this survey is very valuable to us and we want to thank all women who took time to participate”, said Mary Brosnan, director of nursing and midwifery at hospital.

“There are areas we need to focus on for improvement, and we have developed a comprehensive Quality Improvement Response to address issues highlighted by our patients. These survey results will be used to further develop our maternity and neonatal services.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times