Midwives care for over 150,000 pregnant women every month.
Midwives report that more pregnant women are facing homelessness than ever before, according to a survey by Channel 4 Dispatches alongside the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
While the exact number of homeless pregnant women is unknown, midwives reportedly care for over 150,000 pregnant women every month.
It is thought that these alarming figures have come about in response to benefits cuts, changes in the welfare system and lack of suitable housing in many areas of the UK.
Born Homeless, Channel 4 Dispatches aired on Monday 18th November, Channel 4, 8pm.
Health risks accompany homelessness.
The word ‘homeless’ covers everyone who does not have a home, including if you are staying with friends, a hostel, squatting or living in conditions that negatively affect your health, as well as living on the streets.
Dispatches find that 99.7% of the midwives surveyed have seen a prospective mother who was homeless in the past 6 months, and 96.7% met a pregnant woman whom they believed to be at risk of homelessness in the same time period.
95% of these midwives said they believe there are health risks, both for the pregnant mothers and their unborn babies, that accompany homelessness.
Some studies suggest that stress in pregnancy can adversely affect the baby’s growth and future development.
The scourge of homelessness.
Clare Livingstone Professional Policy Advisor at RCM said; “Everyday midwives and other health professionals working in our NHS are caring for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. They are among the most vulnerable in our society and midwives have a unique insight into the problem, visiting all women and babies where they live.
“The RCM’s recent guidance for midwives on the duty to refer pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless needs the backing of NHS employers, in enabling staff to undertake training and providing the time for them to appropriately care for women in these circumstances.
“We have all got to do everything we can to tackle the scourge of homelessness. We know that homelessness leads to stress and ill health in pregnancy and that there are potentially adverse effects for the babies of these vulnerable mothers.”