Mothers find fault in maternity care

A survey into the quality of maternity care in New Zealand shows one in six mothers are dissatisfied with the overall care they receive during pregnancy.

And the Health Ministry is to target the standard of post-natal hospital care after the survey found more than a quarter of new mothers did not receive the minimum number of home visits after giving birth.

The issue was highlighted in results from the 2011 maternity consumer survey which assesses women's perceptions of maternity services in New Zealand.

A total of 3235 women took part in the nationwide survey, conducted by Nielsen, that targeted the 8593 women who gave birth during July and August 2010.

Mothers who gave birth within the Waikato District Health Board region accounted for 9 per cent of the respondents.

The nationwide results showed that overall, 51 per cent of women were "very satisfied" and 27 per cent were "quite satisfied" with the overall maternity care they received. However, one in six were dissatisfied with their care.

Action to Improve Maternity group spokeswoman Jenn Hooper, of Hamilton, is also concerned about the higher rate of women having to leave hospital before they feel ready.

"In 2007, one woman in seven was discharged before she felt ready to go home.

"In this survey one woman in five had to leave hospital before feeling ready to go home," she said.

Mrs Hooper was pleased to see the views of bereaved women included in the research – a move that came after AIM's submission to the health select committee calling for their views to be sought.

"It is vital that these people finally have a voice in how to improve maternity services," Mrs Hooper said.

The bereaved parents included Hamilton couple Robert and Linda Barlow whose baby boy, Adam, died in October 2009 from a lack of oxygen during a prolonged and catastrophic labour in which Linda almost died.

The Barlows, who are excited about the pending arrival of a baby – via a surrogate – in May, said they were relieved to have their opportunity to take part in the new Health Ministry survey for bereaved parents.

"It was alarming to find that for the families who had suffered the worst outcomes that they were not represented and that their experiences were not counted or considered valuable," the couple said.

The survey of bereaved mothers was conducted by Research NZ with the support of Sands NZ (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support NZ).

It included the experiences and views of women who had lost a baby in the perinatal period: between 20 weeks and 28 days following birth.

Mrs Hooper said the most concerning issue raised in the survey was that one in three bereaved women had not been given enough information or explanation about why their baby died.

Sands chairwoman Leonie Kirwan said the survey results reflected what bereaved parents "have been telling us for years".

"While most families receive good care when their baby dies, there is still much room for improvement," she said.

To see the full report go to: