Pregnant mothers in the King Country are worried about the future of their local birthing unit - which Waikato District Health Board is proposing to close.

Larissa Hussey lives in Piopio, and is due to give birth to her third child in August.

Already she's given birth twice in Te Kuiti, which is a twenty-minute drive from home.

If the plans go ahead she could be faced with travelling between an hour and an hour and a half to make it to a facility to have her third child.


"It sucks for me because I quite like the fact that it (Te Kuiti Birthing facility) is there and it's close, compared to going another hour just to have to have a baby, when you don't know when they're coming. And my two (previous) labours were very, very fast."

Ms Hussey says it's a massive issue for her and other pregnant women in the district who live in isolated areas.

"People want security and not have to worry - are they going to make it to the closest birthing centre or where are they going to make it next."

Te Kuiti midwife Fleur Thomas says it's unacceptable to put women at risk, by making them travel further - especially when they may already be in labour.

"The biggest danger is that women may well have to birth on the side of the road and that is certainly less than ideal because they end up bleeding, the baby would get cold, not to mention the poor husbands going quite loopy, and the dangers of traffic."

And last time Ms Hussey gave birth - she only had an hour and 15 minutes from the time her waters broke to giving birth.

Ms Hussey's partner, Cam Kendrick, says their third child is likely to arrive even quicker and "Lulu may not make it to the clinic in time if it's further away."

"People talk about having babies on the side of the road like it's a comical thing but I mean if you've got complications or things like that I mean it can be quite serious. So I'd rather she made it to the birthing centre than have to go into labour on the side of the road," Mr Kendrick says.

If the birthing unit closes midwives say it's a safety risk - and if necessary a birth could take place in the emergency department - but that's not a suitable with the likelihood of other hospital patients being nearby.

"Those beds are hard (in the emergency department) whereas the ones in the Te Kuiti maternity ward are really really soft and they're comfortable and it's kind of a welcoming environment," Ms Hussey says.

Another caseload midwife who also serves mothers in the King Country, Taku Stanbury-Poa, says the looming closure of the Te Kuiti clinic is just a reality of the times and decline in the number of births at the local facility.

She says women have more options today and some are choosing to give birth in other facilities in Hamilton or Te Awamutu which are "are better set up" and closer to the major Waikato Hospital if something were to go wrong.

The Waikato District Health Board says a declining rate of births in the town means the Te Kuiti facility is no longer viable.

In 2015 there were only 28 births in Te Kuiti - a number midwives say changes every year.

The Waikato District Health Boards Director of Community and Clinical support, Mark Spittal says it's unsustainable to continue operations because some mothers are deciding not to use the facilities.

Instead, the District Health Board is looking at creating a maternity hub in Te Kuiti.

"The actual hospital birth and postnatal stay is just 48 hours in the total of 10 months of maternity care that women need. So we want to invest in local antenatal and postnatal care and ensure that all local support services like GPs, district nurses and midwives are well integrated and work collaboratively."

He says this would ensure mothers and babies have improved access to health screening, parenting and education in the pursuit of improving the health of mothers and babies.

And Fleur Thomas says she and other midwives and mothers in the King Country have been kept in the dark about what the future may hold for their local clinic and jobs as midwives.

A meeting was held by the WDHB earlier in the week at Te Kuiti.

Mrs Thomas says some midwives and parents voiced their concerns about the loss of a birthing service however she says they were told that the meeting was not the place for those concerns to be raised.

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