“Birth should not be a time in a woman’s life when she has to FIGHT for anything.” -Carla Hartley
Perinatal care funding should follow the mother’s needs and choice of care.
This means providing for funded obstetrician-gynaecological health checks, pre-birth and post-birth, with wraparound services to meet her needs and those of her whānau. High obstetric risk women should be directed to appropriate facilities.
If we’re serious about making intergenerational change in maternity care in our country, we must start at the beginning and look after our mothers. The scientific research into the first 1000 days of a child’s life and its impact on the rest of their life is irrefutable.
This means we must restore equitable maternity and postnatal care to all women, but particularly those at-risk, where Māori are overrepresented. Poor maternal mental health doesn’t discriminate – it crosses socio-economic, cultural and ethnic boundaries.
Equitable maternity and postnatal care will lead to parents having a better capability to raise secure, resilient, and adaptable children.
This must be achieved by Government legislation that establishes a ring-fenced fund which gives a mother choice about where she receives her care. This should include the necessary wraparound services to meet her medical and wellbeing needs.
Equity of maternity and postnatal care across New Zealand is critical to curbing the country’s stark and shameful statistics: a maternal suicide rate that is five times higher per capita than the UK (PMMRC Annual Report 2019), and one of the worst postnatal depression, family abuse and child homicide records in the world.
Mothers already have a legal right to at least 48 hours of postnatal care but are often not receiving it because of overloaded maternity units. They are often leaving hospital exhausted, without having recovered or receiving the necessary support for their health needs. Science shows it’s the most vulnerable time for mother and baby.
This time known as the ‘window of opportunity’ after birth allows bonds to form between mothers, babies and whānau that is critical to their lifelong health – mental and physical.
Supporting mothers today is foundational to our nation’s social and economic success and will pay dividends in the future of our society.
Well mother – well child – healthy nation.