DHSC Publish Women's Health Strategy for England

Published on: 28/12/2021

Today the Department of Health and Social Care published their women’s health strategy for England.

In terms of pregnancy, they published the following:

What We’ve Heard

In the Call for Evidence public survey, the topic of fertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and post-natal support was the 2nd most selected topic that respondents picked for inclusion in the Women’s Health Strategy, and the most selected topic for respondents aged 30-39. Responses to the public survey and written submissions covered a wide range of issues, including contraception, preconception health, fertility and infertility, pregnancy loss and stillbirth, support for expectant and new mothers and their partners, pelvic floor health, and patient experience and safety. Many of the written submissions in particular also spoke of the importance of continuing to tackle disparities in maternal and neonatal outcomes. Information was another key theme, with calls for more information on the causes of infertility, the likelihood of a successful pregnancy at a later age, information relating to women’s health prior to pregnancy, and the realistic success rates of fertility treatments. Another key issue raised was miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Women who responded to our public survey shared accounts of the devastating impact of pregnancy loss and the variation in the level of support available from healthcare services and employers. Finally, some written submissions also focused on the ways in which pregnancy can be a key intervention point in a woman’s life course, and the ways in which pregnancy provides an opportunity to support improvements to women’s health, for example regarding advice on smoking, obesity, and specific interventions such as postnatal contraception.

Our Ambition

Women are empowered to make purposeful choices about their reproductive health and care before, during and after pregnancy and pregnancy loss, with support from safe, high-quality health services

Next Steps

We will maintain our efforts to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, including a strong focus on reducing maternal and neonatal disparities. Improving our understanding of the underlying causes of pregnancy complications, as well as improving data collection and disaggregation, is vital in tackling these disparities. In the Strategy, we will consider how we can strengthen healthcare and workplace support for women and partners affected by pregnancy loss and other pregnancy and fertility-related issues. We will also consider the recommendations of the DHSC-commissioned Pregnancy Loss Review once published. We will work with the forthcoming Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy to ensure that the two strategies together set out our approach to improving women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Heidi Eldridge, MAMA Academy’s Chief Executive Officer, said “MAMA Academy welcomes the fact that the DHSC remains committed to improving outcomes for expectant parents and their babies. However, we have some concern that the year on year rate of stillbirth reduction has slowed significantly versus previous years. This may be in part related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as a range of other factors. We call on the DHSC and NHS England to redouble their efforts as we all work towards the 2025 target of a 50% reduction in stillbirth and neonatal death rates.

As an essential element of this, we urge the government to recognise that staffing levels in maternity services are at a serious crossroads. Understaffing compromises patient safety, and we are seeing an epidemic of low staffing levels in maternity across the country. This in turn negatively impacts staff morale, further increasing the impact of this. Whilst we welcome the funding that the government has already allocated to tackle this issue, we believe more funding and more focus still needs to be allocated to address the critical problem of staffing numbers, and more focus needs to be put onto this issue.

This needs urgent action without delay, and we call on the Secretary of State for Health to make it a key priority over the coming months. Failure to do so threatens to arrest the progress that has been made over recent years.”