Reality check: Thousands of women are NOT giving birth in hospital toilets! Are you stupid!?

Terrifying news from the guys and gals at the Daily Mail. An attention grabbing headline announces that: “bed shortages forces 4,000 mothers to give birth in lifts, offices and hospital toilets”.

Are you asking yourself what is this country coming to? You’re an idiot. This headline just screams bullshit. For one thing, most hospitals would tend to have more beds than lifts, suggesting that the elevator isn’t the preferred second choice amongst medical staff.

Delving into the article, they don’t even try to substantiate the claim, saying:

63 births in ambulances and 608 in transit to hospitals;
117 births in A&E departments, four in minor injury units and two in medical assessment areas;
115 births on other hospital wards and 36 in other unspecified areas including corridors;
399 in parts of maternity units other than labour beds, including postnatal and antenatal wards and reception areas.

Not too scary. Although they do ominously add:

Babies were born in offices, lifts, toilets and a caravan, according to the Freedom of Information data for 2007 and 2008 from 117 out of 147 trusts which provide maternity services.

How many though? One thousand? Two thousand? Or the four thousand you claim in the headline! They don’t say. Fortunately (before I school myself in midwifery to make up for the NHS’s obvious failings – the logical solution), The Guardian provided more statistics:

The 2008 figures reveal that as well as 1,548 unplanned home births, there were 333 births in transit to the hospital, 171 in an antenatal ward or area, 38 in an ambulance, 63 in A&E.

In addition, 26 births occurred on a postnatal ward, 11 in a maternity reception, 34 in a maternity ward other than a designated labour ward and 52 in other wards. A total of 22 births occurred in other parts of the hospital, one in a corridor and eight in a car park.

Call me underly sensationalist, but that seems more symptomatic of uncontrollable baby-spawning (what’s the scientific term for that?) than anything else.

At the heart of this particular issue, removing all the waffle, seems to be this: On 553 occasions in 2008, overstretched (under-resourced?) maternity units were not able to admit any more women in labour.

Who’s at fault here and what should be done about it, if anything? Discuss….


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