Jeremy Hunt is setting out plans for expectant mothers to be cared for by the same midwives throughout their pregnancy in a bid to reduce miscarriages and stillbirths.
The health and social care secretary will announce plans to train 3,000 extra midwives and maternity support staff over four years.
His action, due to be announced in a speech on Tuesday, comes after the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) warned of chronic shortages in maternity services.
Hunt is expected to say: “There are few moments in life that matter more than the birth of a child, so the next step in my mission to transform safety standards is a drive to give mums dedicated midwives, who can get to know them personally and oversee their whole journey from pregnancy to labour to new parent.”
The changes to maternity services in England will start with a target of one in five women benefiting from the “continuity of carer” model by March 2019.
By 2021, the aim is that the majority of women will receive care from the same midwives throughout their pregnancy, labour and birth.
The government said research suggested women who used the model were 19% less likely to miscarry, and 24% less likely to give birth prematurely.
Hunt will say: “The statistics are clear that having a dedicated team of midwives who know you and understand your story can transform results for mothers and babies – reducing stillbirths, miscarriages and neonatal deaths, and the agony that comes with these tragedies.
“This profound change will be backed up by the largest ever investment in midwifery training, with a 25% expansion in the number of training places, as well as an incredibly well-deserved pay rise for current midwives.”
Other measures include a more formal definition for maternity support workers, whose roles and job titles currently vary widely and do not adhere to set standards.
The government will also work with organisations including the RCM to develop new training routes into midwifery.
The announcements come after years of NHS pay restraint were ended with a rise of between 6.5% and 29% over three years, which could help make the profession more attractive.
A newly qualified band-five midwife will start on a salary of £24,907 by 2020-21 – a 12.6% rise from the current starting salary.
About 650 more midwives will enter training next year, with planned increases of 1,000 in subsequent years.
The RCM chief executive and general secretary, Gill Walton, said: “This is a very long overdue acknowledgement by the government that England’s maternity services need more midwives.
“The RCM has been campaigning to get successive governments to eradicate the midwife shortage for well over a decade. This is recognition that this government have been listening to us.”
But she added: “Whilst we welcome the commitment to continuity of care, it is ambitious. The additional midwives who start training next year won’t be qualified midwives working in our maternity services until 2022.
“That will make a difference and it will begin to have an impact on the workload of midwives, but it will not transform maternity services right now. It will take seven or eight years before all of the new midwives announced today will be actually working in our maternity services.”