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Pregnant Mums Feeling The Pressure During Lockdown

Women expecting a baby are struggling with the restrictions to their usual support during lockdown. Along with reduced physical check-ups by their midwife including their blood pressure and baby's heartbeat, they are expected to only take one support person with them during labour, and that support person is unable to visit post-natally if they go home at any time. Contributing to their growing anxiety, families are also receiving confusing advice as to what to expect at the time of their birth. District Health Boards vary in their lockdown rules and restrictions and midwives' information sometimes conflicts with information given to them from their local birth unit.

While formal Ministry of Health advice has said that other people in your bubble can look after your children should you go into labour, expectant mother Naomi Hansman who is 30 weeks pregnant says that raises questions if to date your bubble has just consisted of yourself, your partner and children: "A woman's partner cannot look after the kids as well as be there to support her - they need to find someone outside of their bubble. A single mum has an even greater dilemma and may need two people to support her both during labour and to care for children - therefore potentially going outside her bubble to source that."

It is unclear whether the Government expects that a family extend their 'bubble' or whether during labour a woman must birth without support while her support/partner takes care of the children. Mrs Hansman says she is concerned about the reduced support and particularly concerned for women facing potentially traumatic situations such as an emergency scan or D & C with inadequate support if her partner or support person is having to care of the other children. Mrs Hansman herself is at-risk of developing a condition called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) as she has done in two previous pregnancies: "There is a risk of stillbirth with ICP if it's not monitored properly."

Founder & Service Manager of Mothers Helpers, Kristina Paterson is calling on the Government to fund extra support for pregnant women during the perinatal stages: "We are seeing increasing anxiety amongst women that are expecting a baby, and if we are not finding alternate ways to increase our support for them at this challenging time, we are going to see a significant increase in perinatal depression/anxiety, which is already being inadequately addressed in New Zealand."

Nationwide charity Mothers Helpers has set up an 0800 number for women who are distressed and pregnant or have a new baby, currently staffed by volunteer registered counsellors and social workers. Paterson says relying on volunteers is not sustainable in the long-term and is requesting Government funding to increase their staff to respond to the growing demand. Pregnant and new mothers can call 0800 002 717 and Mothers Helpers has increased the number of prevention and recovery support groups they run called "Preparing for Parenthood" and "Out of the Fog."

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