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Birthing Centre Celebrates First Year With No Public Funding In Sight

26 May 2020: First birthday celebrations at Nga Hau Māngere Birthing Centre this week will be bittersweet, with a joyful celebration of the 176 babies born there over the past year tempered with disappointment that the Budget failed to deliver much-needed funding for birthing and postnatal care.

Centre staff and community midwives will have a shared lunch to mark the occasion on Wednesday, however due to COVID-19 restrictions, mums who have birthed there over the past 12 months are unable to attend with their babies. They will instead send in photos and videos for a special display.

The 20-suite primary birthing centre is funded by the Wright Family Foundation, which also has centres in Tauranga, Palmerston North and Lower Hutt. The management of the Palmerston North centre was taken over by MidCentral DHB in April this year, and while the Tauranga centre receives some local DHB funding, the other two centres receive none.

It was hoped that Budget 2020 would see much-needed funding for birthing and postnatal care in the form of better pay for community midwives and funding for postnatal care that would follow mothers to the birthing facility of their choice – not decided for them by DHBs.

Wright Family Foundation CEO and Birthing Centre founder Chloe Wright says Nga Hau Māngere was established to be a changemaker in the provision of primary birthing and postnatal care in South Auckland – ensuring parents were supported to bond with their babies and improve long term mental health outcomes for new mothers – but Counties Manukau DHB hasn’t come to the party.

The centre is free for birthing women but only seven of the 20 suites are being utilised as the Foundation continues to fund the centre independently.

“To date, the DHB refuses to engage. It’s a ‘no brainer’, but clearly a ‘no heart’ approach to the women and families of South Auckland,” says Chloe.

As well as providing 48 hours of postnatal care for families – partners are allowed to stay post-birth also – the centre has also become a hub for midwifery in South Auckland, with many midwives holding antenatal clinics there as well as delivering babies.

“We are thrilled to have supported so many families and enabled midwives to experience birthing and postnatal care the way they were trained to, and where their hearts lie,” says Chloe.

Nga Hau Māngere clinical midwife manager Tish Taihia says the centre has been “warmly welcomed” in the local community and has been a beacon for first-time mums, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the centre’s births.

“That speaks volumes because historically, people think first-time mothers should birth in a hospital, with doctors on hand if needed.”

With other South Auckland primary birthing units located in Botany and Papakura, both mothers and local midwives have welcomed having a primary birthing option closer to home.

“That’s a good thing because women who don’t have to be in a secondary birthing environment are often more satisfied with their birth. It’s less traumatic, less stressful and they feel safe,” says Tish.

Midwife Dianne Wihone was one of the original staff midwives at Nga Hau Māngere but has since become a lead maternity carer (LMC), forming Southside Midwives with fellow midwife Dinah Otukolo to offer home birthing services, and birthing at Nga Hau Māngere.

“Nga Hau Mangere has been amazing for all the women of South Auckland, but particularly for the women of Māngere. It has given them an option to birth outside of Middlemore.

“When Dinah and I first started many people thought we wouldn’t be able to get enough clients interested in primary birthing only, but every month we have to turn women away because we are fully booked.

“Having Nga Hau has set women and their babies up so well postnatally. It’s been a real privilege and an honour to firstly help set it up, and now being one of the LMCs that utilise that beautiful environment.”

Dianne says more than 40 per cent of Southside Midwives’ deliveries have been first-time mums.

“Historically, their families have always had their babies at Middlemore and now they are starting a whole new generation of birthing outside the hospital. Often we see mums, aunties and grandmothers who say ‘ that’s the kind of birth we wanted’.

“And these first-time mums who birth at Nga Hau Māngere will only have that experience of birth – a luxurious room with ensuite bathroom and attentive postnatal care, including extra breastfeeding support. You can relax and have your partner stay. It’s this sort of care that makes all the difference to them when they go home.”

Krystal Coney gave birth at Nga Hau Māngere in December and says it was an experience she is “very grateful” for.

“Staff are very welcoming and understanding with expectant and postnatal mothers. I’m very grateful there is a centre like this that not only helps us to focus on caring for our newborn, but adjusting to motherhood as well.”

Another highlight for the centre in its first year has been the completion of 40m of murals, hand painted by artist Waiari MacMillan, which wrap around the walls of the centre’s internal corridor, representing the myriad of cultures of the women who birth at the centre.

The murals depict Te Timatanga, the genesis story of Māori; migration from Hawaiki, a garden of native plants used in birthing, and a line-up of some of the migrants who followed Māori to New Zealand, including Pacific Islanders, Europeans, Asians and Africans.

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