The Need for A Primary Birth Unit is Overdue!
The UK Birthplace Study is the latest international research to show that natural, satisfying and healthy birth is mostly likely to happen at home or in a free standing, midwife-led or primary unit; also called a birth centre. A comparison of this research with New Zealand birth outcomes confirms these findings are the same here. New understandings of labour physiology explains why the ‘Place of Birth’ can significantly influence birth outcomes via impacts on labour hormones. More recently Dr Sarah Buckley has published online her report on the impact of current maternity care practices on the flow of these vital hormones. The lack of affordable housing in Auckland means many pregnant women are in accommodation which lacks privacy and other facilities suitable for a home-birth even if they wanted and would benefit from one.
Waikato DHB; which has six primary birthing units and funds five privately owned and operated birthing units states “Encouraging the option of primary birthing is important to the DHB and it is worth reflecting that the good outcome Waikato demonstrates against the national clinical indicators for normal births and low caesarean section rates are a result of low risk women being able to birth in environments suited to their needs within their own communities.”
The nearest primary units for West Auckland women are, during off peak times half-an-hour (Birthcare in Parnell) to an hours (Helensville) drive away. Thus the majority of ‘Westie’ women are delivered in secondary or tertiary hospitals in which, as per elsewhere in New Zealand, interventions, such as caesarean section have only increased over the last two decades.
In 2010, a group of local women envisaged a unique, “state of the art” integrated birth-parenting centre to optimally meet the needs of West Auckland women and their families, as per this video this facility would include;
- Physiologically appropriate birthing spaces,
- Family friendly post-natal rooms, with communal areas,
- A drop-in centre for women, with breastfeeding supportive services,
- Consultation rooms for midwives, doctors and complementary therapy practitioners,
- A maternity-parenting resource centre,
- Safe play areas for children – inside and out,
- Rooms for relevant community groups to hold gatherings,
- Decorations which honour birth and parenting,
- Support services (e.g. catering, home help) for local new families,
- Sustainable community gardens,
- An ecologically sustainable and wheel chair accessible facility.
In 2015, the Waitemata District Health Board (WDHB) at last acknowledged the need to support more ‘normal’ birthing practices as part of their planning for the next four years. However despite many public meetings and submissions including petitions there is no official statement about a primary unit for either North Shore or West Auckland!