New Zealand women, like their UK counterparts, often say that they would ‘prefer to avoid interventions, provided that their baby is safe’, but there is no way of knowing how many women in NZ achieve this goal. The NZ definition of ‘Normal birth’ used for national data collection refers to any vaginal birth in NZ, in contrast to WHO and UK definitions of ‘Normal Birth” which refer to a labour that starts, progresses and ends naturally or spontaneously. Natural labour uses less of our limited health resources as well as achieving NZ mothers’ birth preferences.

As well as meaningful definitions, the UK and Canada also have campaigns to monitor and improve rates of ‘Normal Birth’ and programmes to lower surgical birth outcomes and other childbirth interventions.  The UK campaign was launched by an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity (APPGM) which is “a cross-party group of MPs and Peers with an interest in the maternity services. Established in 2000 the group raises awareness of the important part maternity provision has to play in improving women and babies’ health”. The UK “Campaign for Normal Birth” is a practical, accessible and evidence based effort, developed and supported by a broad range of maternity professional and user organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and the National Childbirth Trust, with no NZ equivalent!

In the UK, ‘normal birth’ rates are recognised as an indicator of maternity services quality.

Therefore we call on the government of New Zealand to;

  • Set a definition for ‘normal birth’ consistent with international standards
  • Develop an accessible, practical NZ campaign to increase ‘Normal Birth’.