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Maternity care "should involve GPs"

A new report has claimed that health services for pregnant women and their babies are being undermined due to a lack of involvement by GPs in maternity care.

A study carried out by the King's Fund think tank said family doctors are best placed to know a woman's medical history.

But it warned they have too little involvement in pregnancy care.

The report called for GPs to have a bigger role through all the stages of pregnancy, and for better communication to be established between them and midwives and consultants.

According to the authors of the report, GPs could play a crucial role, particularly in pregnancies where women suffer with difficult medical needs.

This may include managing weight gain in obese women, referral to stop-smoking services and discussing genetic testing for those women who need it.

A visit early in pregnancy could also check a woman's general health, including a review of medical history from medical records and a heart examination.

The report said a GP could prove vital because women do not always share all their medical history with midwives.

Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "The RCM agrees that GPs can, and in some areas already do, make an important contribution to the care of pregnant woman and have a particular role to play in providing pre-conception counselling for women in their care, for undertaking a medical examination when this is required and for ensuring appropriate care for women with medical problems, who become pregnant.

"However, the RCM notes that, for a variety of reasons, many GPs have relinquished their role in the provision of routine antenatal care and are not required to have any experience in obstetrics.

"We would argue, as does the report, that if GPs are to have a wider role in maternity care, they must be able to demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of maternity care and be actively engaged with their local maternity services."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

King's Fund

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I am a retired midwife and health visitor. When I was practising we were always kept up to date with the medical histories of our patients. We had regular team meetings in the surgery and any issues were dealt with accordingly. Any serious problems were either dealt with by the GP or the
patient was monitored by the local maternity dept under an obstetrician. Surely this is a simple matter of management.
Midwives should be allowed to practice unhindered by GPs, unless a medical issue warrants dual care" - Geraldine McLoughlin, Wiltshire