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New Zealand – Maternity Services

by Kez

Maternity services in NZ are a bit different from those in the UK.

I know more about Independent midwives than other maternity carers so my information is a bit biased in their favour.

Most women are cared for by midwives throughout their pregnancy, birth and post-natal care. Midwives in NZ do all the stuff that GPs do in the UK, ie prescribe medication, refer you to a radiologist for scans, take blood samples etc. Very few GPs attend births any more. The government brought in new legislation a few years back which gave more choice to women; GPs weren’t happy with this and their now reduced income so stopped attending births.

If you are a resident then all care is free, unless you want an obstetrician, then they will charge. If you develop problems in your pregnancy, your midwife will refer you to an obstetrician – there’s no charges associated with this.

You have three choices of location to have baby: home, maternity hospital, and base hospital. If you have baby at home, or maternity hospital, there is a limited range of drugs you can take during labour, eg you can’t have an epidural. But there is less chance of intervention with drugs etc.

Alternatively you could have baby in a base hospital, which is a large general hospital with a maternity ward, neo-natal units etc. If you develop any problems during pregnancy/labour you’ll probably be transferred to a base hospital. A base hospital is also the only place where they do Caesareans.

These will all depend on whereabouts in New Zealand you are living and who your maternity carer is.

You have basically two choices of midwife: an independent midwife or a hospital midwife.

If you have an independent midwife, you will see her for your ante-natal and post-natal visits, and she will attend the birth. An independent can deliver your baby at home, in a maternity hospital or in a base hospital, depending on the contract she has with the local hospitals. Most independent midwives are members of the New Zealand College of Midwives, which regularly reviews the midwife’s practice every couple of years.

The independent midwife will normally work in some sort of team arrangement, so she has someone else who can be there if she is unable to see you at any given time. The ante-natal/post-natal visits will be either at your home or the midwife’s clinic and the midwife will stay with you throughout the whole of your labour. If you are having your baby at home then there will normally be two midwives present, your primary midwife and a colleague.

Hospital midwives are at the maternity hospitals and base hospitals. You will normally be assigned to a team of midwives, whom you will see for your ante-natal/post-natal visits. I think these are normally done at the hospital. When you go into labour, one of the midwives on your team will attend you. The downside is that if your labour is long then you may go through several shifts of midwives and so several different midwives.

GPs and obstetricians normally work with a team of midwives. The midwives will do the majority of the visits and stay with you during labour. The GP/obstetrician will probably arrive some time around when the baby is being born…or after.

Where to find a midwife

Domiciliary midwives, hospital-based midwifery services and independent midwives are listed under “Hospitals and other Health Services” at the front of the telephone directory (“White Pages”).

The Maternity Services Consumer Council has information on finding a person to care for you in pregnancy and childbirth: phone (09) 520 5314 or email: mscc@maternity.org.nz

The New Zealand College of Midwives can also help you find a midwife. Write to NZCOM, Box 21 106, Christchurch, or phone (03) 377 2732 or email nzcom@nzcom.org.nz

More information can be found on these websites:

New Zealand College of Midwives
New Zealand Government

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