Calls for extended postnatal stays

National wants longer postnatal stays for new mums. File image/SunLive.

Longer postnatal hospital stays for new mums is a good idea but a Tauranga midwife believes Tauranga Hospital would not cope with the extra patients.

The woman, who did not want to be named, has been a midwife for 26 years and has worked in both the hospital and private sector.

She says new mums would benefit from a three day hospital stay, as opposed to the current 48 hour stay because it would help them create feeding and sleeping habits with their baby.

“They would get their feeding established a little bit better, because the first time mum doesn't really get her milk until about until about day three.

“It would give them a chance settle in and get used to it.

“The hospital wouldn't be big enough to do three days for a normal delivery, there's not enough beds for them to stay that long”

She says the maternity unit has 21 beds for antenatal post and postnatal patients and if normal delivery patients stayed for three days, they would need to get more beds.

National MP for Taupō Louise Upston has launched a petition for all new mums to have access to three days of fully funded postnatal care.

“Currently, new mums are entitled to stay in a hospital or postnatal facility for up to 48 hours, but many feel pressure to go home as soon as possible, sometimes only two or three hours after giving birth,” she says.

“Becoming a mum is an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming and frightening.

“Giving all new mums the chance to stay for up to three days in a hospital or postnatal facility will mean that if they experience the baby blues, have difficulty breastfeeding, face a medical emergency or simply just need some extra support to help them build up confidence, that support will be available.

“This policy will cost an additional $16-20 million, and the funding will be ringfenced. Mothers who are comfortable going home earlier will be able to, but if there are mothers who need to stay a little longer, the money will stay in the pot so they can.”

The midwife says if a new mother is experiencing difficulties they can stay in hospital longer than the 48 hours it just depends on the circumstances.

New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy says the timing of readiness for discharge from hospital or a primary birthing unit following birth will differ from woman to woman, depending on her individual circumstances and needs.

“Some women wish to be discharged from hospital earlier than 48 hours, in order to be close to whānau or simply be in their own surroundings. Others feel they need a longer period of support and recovery and there is provision within current service specifications for a post-natal stays longer than 48 hours for women who need it.”

Alison says the college agrees that there is an urgent need to review the services being provided to women in hospitals and maternity units in the crucial first days after birth.

“Unfortunately, shortages of midwives and overloaded secondary and tertiary maternity facilities due to under resourcing mean that some women are leaving hospital before they feel ready to.

“Some women have reported that shortages of midwifery staff have led to delays in care or care that did not fully meet their needs.”

She says that funding and provision of post-natal care needs to be considered more widely than just three days of extended care to best meet the needs of women and babies.

“Problems with the length of post-natal care are symptomatic of wider problems with funding in the maternity service.

“The problem at present is that staff shortages on many maternity units are putting pressure on them to move women on quickly and midwives are stretched to care for those who are in the units.

“Post-natal care is one part of a maternity service that urgently needs to be resourced to levels where women feel they are being fully supported during the vital days after their babies arrive.”

SunLive approached the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, but they declined to comment.

The petition can be found here.

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