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New Zealand Falling Short When Educating Mothers About Childbirth

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
New Zealand Falling Short When Educating Mothers About Childbirth

1 MAY 2009 - The Families Commission says some new mothers are falling between the gaps as a result of poor information and access to services provided around the time of childbirth.

The report Childbirth education antenatal education and transitions of maternity care in New Zealand by researcher Dr Sarah Dwyer was funded by the Families Commission in association with Parents Centres New Zealand Inc and the Parenting Council. The aim of the report is to help improve and strengthen the quality of childbirth education in New Zealand.

Chief Commissioner Dr Jan Pryor says it raises critical issues about women's access to childbirth education, information, and the transition from maternity care to parental support.

"Because of the problems, many women are unaware of, or not using the services available, are having to initiate contact with services themselves or are simply falling between the gaps. In addition most women are only vaguely aware of their entitlements - such as how long they can stay in hospital after the birth, how many home visits they can have from their lead maternity carer (LMC) and WellChild, or that there is free care for urgent pregnancy problems."

As a result not all women and their families are receiving good antenatal education and support and there are significant differences in the availability and delivery of childbirth education across DHBs, said Dr Pryor.

Overall, under half (41 percent) of all pregnant women attend a childbirth education course. Of those, four out of five are first time mothers however only one in 10 of those are Maori and less than one in a hundred are Pacific.

District Health Boards are expected to provide free childbirth education services to cover three out of 10 of all pregnant women. However half of DHBs are not meeting this target. The number of places funded by Wellington's Capital and Coast DHB would potentially be enough to allow only one in 10 first time mothers to attend. Northland, Waitemata and Nelson-Marlborough DHBs fund enough places for the equivalent of one in three first time mothers.

She was particularly concerned to find out why so few Maori and Pacific mothers were accessing childbirth education.

"To have new parents missing out on information at this early stage increases the risk of not being able to cope with situations as they arise. The consequence has the potential to be devastating."

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