Nearly one in four women in labour at Bethlehem Birthing Centre have been taken to Tauranga Hospital since the centre opened last October.

The birthing centre, opened by Prime Minister John Key on October 16, has had 79 births, 18 of which were diverted to Tauranga Hospital for clinical reasons.

Neonatal respiratory distress, third-degree tears, postpartum haemorrhages, slow labour progress, retained placenta, pain relief, thick meconium and malpresentation were all reasons mothers were transferred to the hospital.

The Bay of Plenty Times obtained the figures and reasons for the transfers from the Bay of Plenty District Health Board under the Official Information Act.


Bethlehem Birthing Centre manager Chloe Wright did not comment on the transfers when contacted by the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

Jenn Hooper, of parent support and lobby group Action to Improve Maternity, said data on transfers in New Zealand was limited. "One of the things we try and do is help women make fully informed decisions but how can we help them when we don't have the full information to back that up?"

Mrs Hooper said about 95 per cent of the 650 families it represented involved mothers who did not choose to give birth at a hospital. "It doesn't matter what building you are in. If it's not going to be possible [a complication-free birth] and sometimes you are not going to know that until the last minute and you are going to want to be somewhere where you have access to every single bit of help that will ultimately make things end well," she said.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has previously said it accepted women assessed at low-risk of pregnancy complications might choose to labour in relatively low-technology standalone primary childbirth units.

However this was qualified by a note about location, "wherever possible, such units should be sited within or immediately adjacent to a 24-hour hospital facility".

Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Phil Cammish said the health board maternity teams had put a considerable amount of time into working with Bethlehem Birthing Centre prior to its opening to ensure safe systems of work between the two organisations.