Urgent call to solve the Wellington region maternity crisis by looking “just down the road”

MEDIA RELEASE 10 September 2019: Solving the escalating crisis around maternity and post-natal care for mothers and babies in the Wellington region could be done almost overnight if the area’s DHBs were willing to support women to receive the postnatal care to which they are entitled.

This from the founder of Mothers Matter and founder and Director of Birthing Centre, Chloe Wright, who says it’s disturbing to see the issues at both Wellington and Hutt Valley Hospitals’ maternity wards continue to worsen.

“We have been attempting to communicate with both the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs on this matter for the past three years. We want women in the area to be able to access the 48 hours postnatal care to which they are entitled and to improve the outcomes for those mothers so that they receive the support they need to protect their wellbeing and bond with their babies,” says Chloe.

“Our maternal suicide rates in New Zealand compared to the UK are seven times higher per capita, with disproportionate numbers of Maori represented in those statistics. The DHBs and the Government, if they’re serious about mental health, needs to take urgent action to resolve this failing of our mothers and their babies.

“When we neglect the fundamental needs of our women, we are not only harming them, we are also harming the outcomes and future of our next generation of children.”

The Mothers Matter campaign was founded by Chloe last year to make mothers aware of their current right to 48 hours of postnatal care, and to put pressure on the Government to establish a ring-fenced national fund, managed by the Ministry of Health, to support a mother’s right to receive the clinically and psychologically appropriate amount of postnatal care and support at the facility of her choice, regardless of the type of birth she has had.

The Mothers Matter campaign has the vocal backing of birthing, first-1000 days and postnatal experts such as Dame Lesley Max and Nathan Wallis ( The group has worked with MP Louise Upston, resulting in the introduction of a new Member’s Bill to legislate for ring-fenced 72 hours postnatal care for women.

The Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre at Melling, Lower Hutt, opened in 2018 and is only 20km from Wellington Hospital, and 1.5km from Hutt Hospital. It is a primary birthing facility dedicated to providing mothers with birthing choice and the kind of postnatal care and support that allows a mother to better form a lasting bond with her baby.

“We have built similar facilities in Mangere, Tauranga and Palmerston North because we know the maternity system needs more support and we want to show how outstanding care of mothers can be achieved.” explains Chloe.

“The Tauranga and Palmerston North Birthing Centres are partly funded by the Bay of Plenty and MidCentral District Health Boards respectively because those DHBs have come to realise that the Birthing Centres are the solution to the problems of demand and quality care.”

All four birthing centres are currently supported by Wright Family Foundation in a bid to show how maternity and postnatal care can significantly improve the outcomes for mothers and babies, particularly in the time known as the ‘window of opportunity’: the first 48 hours after birth.

“The evidence is compelling that if we put mothers at the centre of postnatal care, it simply pays dividends into the future,” says Chloe.

“We want to be the changemakers in this spiraling lack of support for motherhood and the ongoing grief it causes to families and the escalating problems with mental health.

“The maternity crisis extends to the whole of New Zealand, not just the Wellington region. We are seeing time and again, mothers and babies in danger because they are being pushed out of the hospital doors, fearful, lonely and confused. We need to take this seriously before there is more harm done.

“We need to get back to focusing on what midwives are trained to do - primary birthing and the care of mothers. If we do this, and work with the DHBs to better assist postnatal care, the pressures will already be alleviated.

“Mental health and wellbeing statistics show that our women are suffering, and as a result their babies are too. When are we going to sit up and get real? As Eisenberg said in 1989, ‘the pregnant princess has become the postpartum peasant’, and never has this been truer in our country than now.”


Mothers Matter is about empowering women to make an informed choice about their postnatal care.

© 2018 Mothers Matter NZ