MEDIA RELEASE 30 September 2019: Mothers Matter is calling on the Southern District Health Board to fulfil its duty and provide mothers with their rightful access to maternity care and 48 hours of postnatal support.

Founder of the Mothers Matter movement, Chloe Wright, says while National’s commitment to reinstating the birthing unit in Lumsden and to co-fund the building of a birthing unit in Wanaka is s welcomed, the people of the Southern DHB area simply cannot wait that long.

She says DHBs nationwide need to start utilising the primary centres that are already built and ready to support women. The group also insists DHBs and the Ministry of Health needs to start providing a woman’s current right to 48 hour to quality postnatal care, as well as change the funding model so that it’s ringfenced for mothers and follows her based on where she chooses to birth and receive postnatal care.

“What needs to happen is for DHBs to accept that we have a maternity crisis, not just in Lumsden and Wanaka, but across the nation. It is both terrifying and heart breaking that we live in a country that puts our mothers and babies at risk. Something needs to happen now,” says Chloe.

Mothers Matter is questioning why mothers and babies’ wellbeing has to be put at risk before the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards take appropriate action to ensure the proper services for pregnant and postpartum mothers are in place.

Through the Wright Family Foundation, Primary Birthing Centres in Tauranga, Palmerston North, Lower Hutt, and Mangere have been established with wraparound services creating a hub for families. DHBs in the Manawatu and Bay of Plenty assist in providing limited funding, but no funding as yet has been applied to the centres in Lower Hutt/Wellington or Counties Manukau.

“Since I began this journey more than five years ago for the recognition of women’s legal right to care, I have been contacted by the Southern DHB and others to see if we would build or provide the primary services such as the ones already operating,” explains Chloe.

“The Primary Birthing Centres we have built, as other primary centres, are the solution to the pressures DHBs are facing. But the overall lack of engagement, care, and robotic approach of the DHBs and Ministry of Health is astonishing, especially considering we have believed the government is looking at improving mental health and wellbeing for the people of New Zealand.”

DHBs and the Ministry of Health are not recognising the Birthing Centres and other primary units that are already built and have capacity to support mothers so that they can really enjoy the days after birthing and bond with their babies.

“It just doesn’t make sense. The fact that DHBs can choose which primary services they will support and have not recognised the areas of great concern for women to get the best care for their own and their babies’ outcomes makes it impossible for us to fund further centres.

“The latest figures show our maternal suicide rate is seven times higher per capita than that of the UK, with Maori over-represented. For a government that proclaims to care about mental health and well-being, support for mothers has stalled. We are in the midst of an escalating maternity and mental health crisis. They are connected,” says Chloe.

Mothers Matter was established to campaign for the recognition of mothers’ legal right to 48 hours postnatal care, and to advocate for the establishment of a ring-fenced fund, which will allow women to choose where they birth and receive postnatal care.

The Mothers Matter group, which includes maternity and child development experts Nathan Wallis, Dame Lesley Max and Heather Hayden, also support MP Louise Upston’s private member’s bill to extend postnatal care for all mothers to a three day stay when needed or wanted.

“DHBs are already funded for maternity support and a minimum stay of 48 hours postnatal care. It is irrelevant if it is your first birth or multiple births. Each birth is different, as is each mother’s circumstances,” says Chloe.

“Many mothers are unaware of their rights to at least 48 hours postnatal care and should be informed. Mothers and babies are most vulnerable in that crucial time after birth. Many women do not feel able to demand what is rightfully theirs.

“The onus is on the DHBs to provide the care. They are funded to do this and this should not be the problem of mothers or connected to the lack of midwives and carers.

“We are tired of women being treated as ‘postpartum peasants’. The cost of not providing appropriate care at the start will escalate our mental health problems and suicide rates in the future.

“If a mother thrives, it pays dividends for generations to come.”