Push for birthing centre to be built in Wellington

Island Bay mum Ronja Ievers, with children Bo, 1, and Otto, 4, is among Wellington mothers lobbying for a birthing ...

Island Bay mum Ronja Ievers, with children Bo, 1, and Otto, 4, is among Wellington mothers lobbying for a birthing centre to be built in the capital.

Wellington is New Zealand's only city without a birthing centre, and mothers and midwives say it's time that changed.

Birth centres offer women a home-like place to give birth with midwives present, as opposed to going into hospital or having a baby at home.

Waikato District Health Board, for example, has 11 birthing centres. However, Capital & Coast DHB says it cannot commit to funding even one.

An example of a typical room at a birth centre.

An example of a typical room at a birth centre.

"That's a really shocking response from the DHB, that there's not money available," Karen Gault, of lobby group Birth Hub, said.

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"I understand they're trying to cut costs, but there is money allocated for the purposes of primary birthing, and it shouldn't be in the hospital."

Gault said birthing centres greatly reduced the likelihood of healthy women having Caesarean sections.

"It increases your chances of having a birth that starts on its own and finishes on its own."

Former New Zealand College of Midwives chairwoman Kath Boyle said Wellington women deserved an alternative to home or hospital births.

"Giving women the option allows them to have healthier outcomes for themselves.

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"We are living in a time where women do have options. Let's give them that. 

"I know evidence shows us the outcomes for better birthing depend on the setting, whether that is at home, or a birthing centre." 

Having the option of a hospital birth was still vital, but healthy mothers should have a more comfortable facility, she said. 

Gault said primary birthing units also let partners take a more active, supportive role, whereas hospitals tended to shunt partners "into the corner".

People instinctively preferred "quiet, removed, calm" spaces to give birth, and hospital environments were often alien to that.

She said it was also not always practical for mothers to give birth at home, especially if their houses were cold.

Mother of two Ronja Ievers said she and other mothers she knew strongly supported a birth centre being built. 

"Going into your first labour, you don't know ... what your expectations are.

"You don't know if you will be comfortable in a home environment, or hospital. Having a third option would have been valuable."

Capital & Coast said in a statement that it backed the idea, but would not commit to funding one. 

"While we would support a primary birthing facility in the Wellington region, we are not currently in a position to invest in this." 

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said that, without the DHB's support, the project could not go ahead. 

"I think the DHB have to get in behind it. They are the people who hold the purse strings. I know a lot of expecting mothers are keen.

"I just hope they are open to the conversation at the very least." 

 - Stuff


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