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Women opting for birth intervention

October 19, 2006

Higher socio-economic women opting for birth intervention

The high socio-economic group of educated pakeha women are experiencing high rates of intervention around birth and have increased rates of low birth weight and premature infants, a midwives leader told the New Zealand College of Midwives biennial conference in Christchurch today.

Women are actually handing control over to health practitioners in the often mistaken belief that medicine and technology will give them better outcomes than trusting in their own ability to give birth, said Sharron Cole, deputy chair of the Midwifery Council.

``There is a bitter irony in this in that there is good evidence to show that intervention, particularly caesarean section where it is clinically unnecessary, is more dangerous for both mother and baby.

``The midwifery partnership needs to be strong so that women regain belief in their ability to birth without unnecessary intervention and they also need to know about the evidence that supports the physiological childbirth which underpins the midwifery model.

``Women have devalued the power of the birthing experience. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay and as there are an ever increasing number of caesarean sections being carried out in the absence of any clinical risk factors, it is inevitable that women and babies will die as a result of these unnecessary caesareans.’’

The increased risks to both mother and baby are clearly demonstrated in recently published American and French studies
New Zealand’s midwifery/consumer partnership was facing a battle in keeping a primary maternity service that was women-centred and remained accessible and acceptable to the women using the service, she said.

``Also the proposed changes to the maternity regulations signal the devolution of primary maternity services to DHBs and PHOs, neither of which is ready to assume such a major devolution.

``DHBs are still dealing with the issues that accompanied the devolution of aged care, particularly the under funding issue.

``Given that the primary care maternity budget has only risen $10 million from $110 to $120 million in 10 years, well below the cost of inflation, it is clear the same concerns will arise.

``The history of maternity and midwifery in New Zealand has been a chequered one, a mixture of times of great despair and of great triumph. Even though we face a new uncertain time around primary maternity care, it is from the base of a profession stronger now than at any time in the past.’’

The midwifery profession of more than 2700 practising midwives are providing a primary maternity service that is among, if not the best, in the world. The College of Midwives is regarded as a world leader in midwifery.

``We want to ensure that New Zealand women continue to give birth in a maternity service that is second to none. The great majority of New Zealanders are happy with their maternity service and are for midwives, not against them,’’ Ms Cole said.

ENDS

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