Mothers call for shake up of support

By Nikki Preston

Postnatal care providers need to be more open to different parenting choices, a group says.

Simone Stevenson, pictured with daughter Rubi Kerr, is one of those leading the charge for changes to postnatal services for new mothers. Photo / Christine Cornege
Simone Stevenson, pictured with daughter Rubi Kerr, is one of those leading the charge for changes to postnatal services for new mothers. Photo / Christine Cornege

New mothers who believe there is a lack of support from traditional postnatal service providers such as Plunket are calling for changes to match their evolving choices.

A Facebook group called Support our Mums and Babies - Longer Postnatal Midwifery Care, set-up by Hamilton mother-of-three Jenna Goldsworthy, has received feedback from women who did not feel there was enough support for them and their newborns.

Since the group launched a month ago, more than 200 women from around New Zealand have joined and Mrs Goldsworthy said many of them had had negative experiences with Plunket.

Plunket is the largest well-child provider in the country, assisting 56,225 babies or 92.1 per cent of actual births in the year-ended June 30.

"The overwhelming majority of people say Plunket training is quite outdated and they are not willing to support newer choices and different choices mums are making with babies.

"So [new mothers] are then opting out of their services because they've got such a strict way of 'this is what we want you to do'. A lot of women are ending up feeling judged and just opting out," Mrs Goldsworthy said.

Her group proposes the system be changed so women, if they chose, could be supported by their midwife, with whom they had already built a good rapport, from when the baby was 6 weeks old to 3 months before being referred to Plunket. She also wanted Plunket's protocols reviewed.

Plunket clinical advisory manager Karen Magrath said the service provides quality advice based on research and evidence to help families make the best choices.

"There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, it's different for everyone," Ms Magrath said.

The service improved as a result of feedback to keep it relevant and Plunket worked with the New Zealand College of Midwives for seamless transitions between the two services, she said.

Ms Magrath said one of the biggest challenges was that people often wanted more services than Plunket was resourced to deliver.

Hamilton mother Simone Stevenson, a retired midwife, gave birth to her third daughter, Rubi Kerr, in February. She said she had no support when she was struggling to deal with her baby's reflux and feeding her, as there was a big gap between when the visits from her midwife stopped and the well-child provider eventually visited at the 3-month mark.

"I needed postnatal support, I was postnatally depressed, I was struggling and needed support with my feeding and decisions around that ... And I was a mess by the time I ended up at Waikato Family Centre. An absolute mess."

The 41-year-old said well-child providers needed to adapt to individuals' needs rather than making the clients fit into a box. Ms Stevenson was a unique case and said because she was an older mother opting to use donor milk she did not fit with the services. She also chose not to immunise her children.

A Cambridge-based mother who did not want to be named called Plunket in tears, begging for help and said it wasn't until she threatened to go to the media that they sent someone to see her immediately. She has since had ongoing support.

The woman said she wasn't coping with her sick 9-month-old son, and when she called the Plunket nurse for help in August she was told they would discuss it during the visit the following week. But that week, the nurse sent a text to postpone the appointment.

When she complained to the head office she was also told that as a second-time mother she would get less support than with her first child.

"I was on the phone in tears. I was in such a bad way and they wouldn't help me. I was crying out for help and I wasn't getting any help from them."

The New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliland said the college supported any move that would increase the one-on-one service available for new mothers and their babies over a longer period providing it was adequately funded. She said the early postnatal period could be the hardest time for some.

The proposal

•Better promotion of what services new mothers are entitled to.

•Option for midwives to provide postnatal care until 3 months (up from 6 weeks) before transferral to a well-child provider.

•More home visits.

•Review Plunket and look at ways it can better support a mother's choices in parenting.

•Introduce an independent body to deal with complaints about postnatal care and well-child complaints to provide accountability.

- NZ Herald

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