These days I work with pregnant women and their partners helping them prepare intellectually, physically and emotionally for childbirth. So when headlines like these are in the news there are questions and tears in classes, texts from women who realise their due date is on a Saturday (no mind that 95% of babies don’t arrive on that date because there is 28.6% their baby may arrive on a weekend - see below for more information on dodgy statistics) and emails from concerned partners wanting to know what they can do. This week I have sat with 48 pregnant women and their partners who wanted to understand what was behind these headlines.
What we need to know……….
- There are a number of clinical and methodical flaws in the study by Palmer et al. In particular unhelpful extrapolation of what the results mean in terms of avoidable harm and misleading evidence that may be used to guide policy.
- Since 2012 there has been a move to staffing levels that are consistent throughout the week. Full cover, seven days a week. The authors themselves found no consistent evidence of a relationship between Consultant staffing levels and the outcomes that were the subject of the study.
- The researchers caution that they were only able to use data up to 2012, and cannot be certain how relevant their findings are to the NHS in England today.
- The RCOG response suggests that the interpretation of the data is the study is “enough to make a “statistician sob”
- Apparently, according to the paper, Tuesday is the safest day to have a baby. Except according to their data if we use Tuesday as a reference point Wednesday Thursday, Friday also carry statistically significant increased risks.
What we need to do………..
- Don’t panic - the headlines don’t tell us the whole story, the research is methodically flawed and the interpretation of the statistics is ………………..”enough to make a statistician sob”.
- If you are pregnant - prepare to meet your child - gentle exercise, relaxation, drink tea, eat good nutritious meals, take walks with your lover, be mindful, excited and prepared for birth. If you are anxious, consider seeking support - there are lots of groups, counsellors etc who specialise in supporting women through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
- If you work with pregnant women and their partners - take some time to filter your reactions and emotions. What do you really think? How will you respond? The work we do carries enormous responsibility for now and the future - carry that responsibility wisely and nurture those that turn to you for support and advice.