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Maternity services not all they could be

Maternity services not all they could be

The release of the Ministry of Health's Maternity Services Consumer Survey presents a false impression of what is really going on with maternity services," said Parents Centre Chief Executive, Sue Fitzmaurice.

"While it is true that New Zealanders can boast one of the best maternity services in the world, there remains plenty of room for improvement in some critical areas," said Ms Fitzmaurice

"Of particular concern is the provision of services for premature babies, especially the ability of mothers to stay close. It is important that sophisticated medical treatment is complimented by good old-fashioned maternal love. Separating mothers from their babies during the early days and weeks only adds to their vulnerability," Ms Fitzmaurice said.

"We are aware of babies who have been flown to other parts of the country, or otherwise separated from their mothers. In one case a mother was forced to sleep on a couch at the hospital in order to breastfeed her premature baby and not feed herself - despite the fact that she was breastfeeding."

"It is time that we take a good look at what we want from our maternity service and aim to be a world leader in the delivery of maternity and post-natal care. This would mean addressing the needs of premature babies and their mothers to better facilitate breastfeeding and rooming in options."

"The current shortage of neo-natal beds has reached crisis point. We cannot simply wait and hope. These tiny babies are dependent on the actions of our political leaders to recognise the need for more beds and care which accommodates their mothers," Ms Fitzmaurice said.

"The maternity services consumer survey glosses over too many critical areas. Similarly, the dis-establishment of the position of National Maternity Services Manager will only add to the fragmentation of maternity services around the country. It is important that the position remains in order to provide an overview of maternity services and to identify strengths and weakness around the country.

"The increasing rate of medical interventions during birth is another area that concerns us, and which is unnecessarily using precious health dollars which could be better spent on neo-natal care. All it requires is some comprehensive education for new parents and those lead maternity carers who too readily give in to the demand for unnecessary interventions including caesarean sections and inductions."

"Caesarean sections account for an averge of 20% of births, in some areas it is nearly twice this figure. This is too high, and needs to be addressed in terms of our expectations surrounding labour and birth.

The World Health Organisation estimates that only 10-15% of births in developing nations need any intervention, that figure should be lower in New Zealand where the population enjoys better health and a higher level of sanitation," said Ms Fitzmaurice.

"Likewise, our breastfeeding rates are still too low, and while the release of the Breastfeeding action plan last year will go some way in addressing this, it is important that mothers are given sufficient time in hospital to bond with their new babies and to establish a successful feeding regime. The thought of introducing a policy which would see mothers discharged 48 hours after giving birth, fails to recognise that readiness to leave varies from mother to mother, and cannot be routinely prescribed by short-term economic thinking."

"The more we invest in quality maternity care which addresses the needs of mother and baby, the less we will have to spend on re-admissions, postnatal depression, and associated stresses and illness," said Ms Fitzmaurice.

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