Risk assessment in pregnancy and birth

Visit my website to learn more about my services. Risk assessment has been around for a long time in maternity care and has become more widely spoken about as midwifery-led services have expanded. Risk assessment is a way of identifying potential problems and minimising risks to the woman and baby. Some form of risk assessment is used in almost every profession and although the actual risk assessment process is not perfect, it’s the best tool we have at present. Risk assessment is used on OH&S, education, food service, health, media, emergency services, law and so on.

In maternity, risk assessment is an incredibly useful tool. The benefit of risk assessment is that it is based on science and evidence. We can state with certainty the risks of certain complications such as pre-eclampsia and this is helpful when preparing women for what to expect and things to be on the look-out for. In this way, risk assessment actually lowers the risk to the woman because she can become more involved in her care and more alert for signs that mean she needs to get help.

The downside of risk assessment is that it does tend to categorise women according to a tick-box system. Although the risk might be there, it might not necessarily apply to the woman sitting with us. This might be because the study that exposed, defined or quantified the risk does not apply in the current situation.

How can risk assessment be useful?

Risk assessment can be an incredibly useful tool for both women and midwives in helping to plan care that will meet the woman’s needs safely. Midwives are primary care providers and are responsible for proving care to healthy, low-risk women and babies throughout pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. So a risk assessment tool helps the midwife and woman to know when a referral is needed.

Risk assessments can also highlight potential problems that would benefit from early organisation and planning before labour. This might include reviewing the birth plan, reviewing place of birth, engaging other health professionals and putting in place supports so that the woman can cope well after the baby is born.

Risk assessment can also be useful for discussing homebirth with women and their partners. Some women are perfectly suited to homebirth: they’re healthy, their pregnancy is going well and they’re wanting a natural birth. In this case, risk assessment can be used to explain to the woman that she’s safer at home.

Visit my website to learn more about my services.