ONE-THIRD of women say there were times when they were not treated with kindness and understanding in hospital after giving birth.

While most mothers rate the care they received during pregnancy and labour highly, almost 40% were not entirely happy with the information they were given afterwards.

Just 57% told the official Scottish Government survey they were given consistent advice about feeding their baby.

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It is the first time in 15 years the Scottish Government has cond-ucted a survey into maternity care.

More than 2300 women who gave birth in February and March last year filled in the questionn-aires and a report on their answers was published yesterday.

In total 58% rated the care they received while pregnant as excellent and a further 33% described it as good.

However, the findings raised questions about the choice mothers are given on where they give birth and the quality of the attention they receive once their child has been born.

There was also variation in performance on key issues such as hospital cleanliness and postnatal support around the country.

The report says: "A concerning finding was that during postnatal care in hospital one third of women felt that they were not always treated with kindness and understanding. The first few days following childbirth are crucial in promoting mothers parenting confidence, bonding and physical recovery.

"Key to improving women's experience of care is communi-cation, listening and support; however postnatal care in hospital is often provided in a context of time and workload pressure and this may not enable staff to always provide women centred care."

A fifth of women said they had been left alone when it worried them at some point during labour, including 10% in the early stages. The report recommends that their concerns are "taken seriously".

Gillian Smith, Scotland director of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "We are very, very busy. I worry that when the labour rooms are busy and they have no beds or staff, some of these women might have been silently - or not so silently - labouring on the wards."

However, she added: "There is no excuse for any lack of kindness or compassion to women in the care of midwives and we encour-age midwives to demonstrate the highest standards at all times."

Only 56% of women who took part in the survey said that they received enough information to help them decide where to have their baby. A quarter were offered the possibility of a home birth and 23% the option of using a midwife-led maternity unit.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the National Child-birth Trust, said: "It is disapp-ointing that 44% of women said they did not get enough informa-tion to help them decide where to have their baby. Out-of-hospital births can be a positive experience and a cost-effective option."

Ms Smith said it "is a concern that often that choice isn't given". She added: "It is the responsibility of those delivering maternity services to ensure options are available and these options need to be given to the woman so that she can make an informed choice on where that birth should be."

Professor Helen Cheyne, RCM Scotland Professor of Midwifery at Stirling University, said: "The picture of antenatal care was very encouraging.

"Postnatal care is the bit that looks like there is still work to be done. There is scope for improvement there. The Scottish Government and RCM are funding a project looking at improving post natal services."