Expectant mothers in South Auckland will now have more choice of where to give birth and one midwife says it will help alleviate a "dire shortage" of postnatal beds in the area.
The Herald can today release details of a new purpose-built birthing centre which will open in Mangere late next year.
Until now, there has been no option apart from Middlemore in the Counties Manukau area with the closest birthing units in Parnell, Botany Downs or Papakura.
The 20-suit centre on Waddon St named Nga Hau Mangere will be run as a social enterprise and will be free for women who are eligible for care in New Zealand hospitals and whose pregnancy is considered low-risk.
Women who gave birth at the centre would be able to stay for three nights after giving birth and would have their own room with a queen bed and an ensuite, including a bath that could be used as a birthing pool. Fathers would be able to stay for the first night after the birth.
The centre, which will be owned and supported by the Wright Family Foundation charitable trust, was designed specifically for the South Auckland community, founder and chief executive Chloe Wright said.
"We wanted to create a building that resonates with the community's environment and will reflect its sense of history, while our nurturing and caring service will respect all cultural norms."
Evidence suggested healthy women with low-risk pregnancies, who give birth in a birthing centre, had better health outcomes and less intervention than in hospitals, she said.
"The centre will be a sanctuary for mothers, where they and their babies will have a wonderful opportunity to bond and achieve a positive start in life together."
An overnight respite care facility would also be built on the site to help new mothers receive extra support and education about caring for their babies.
Ady Priday, a self-employed midwife in Mangere and Otara, said she had been asking for more birthing facilities in the area for 20 years.
She said there was a "dire shortage" of post-natal beds in Middlemore Hospital so women were forced to go home or move to another birthing centre as soon as they had given birth - even in the middle of the night.
Because Botany Downs was about 13kms away and Papakura about 29kms, many poorer families were reluctant to go to other birthing centres because of the cost of getting there and back, Priday said.
"That's equivalent to two or three meals on the table so a lot of women are pushed to going home."
A new birthing centre in the area would mean more women would be able to receive support and help in the days after they gave birth, she said.
Priday thought the centre would be well used postnatally but said there was a high rate of diabetes and iron deficiency among the South Auckland community, which made births more risky and meant many women would not be able to give birth there.
Te Puea Winiata, chief executive of primary health care provider Turuki Health Care, which had been working alongside Wright, said it was fantastic news for Mangere and South Auckland.
"It will have a significant impact on our expectant mothers and their families in this locality. The facility will give birthing women another choice, and will provide much needed support for mothers with young babies, having a positive flow-on effect for health and wellbeing," Winiata said.
Counties Manukau District Health Board director of primary, community and integrated care Benedict Hefford said they were speaking with the birthing centre about how best to work together.
"We are pleased a new facility is being built in Mangere but our discussions with them on how we will collaborate and what it will mean from a provision and funding perspective are at an early stage."