Pregnant Waitakere women will be forced to have their babies at hospital or at home because of delays in building a separate birthing unit.

North and West Auckland's Waitematā District Health Board has committed to building a primary birthing unit, which would cater to women who have straightforward deliveries. There are a number of other birthing units in Auckland. But its plans now appear to have shifted leading to one Waitakere mother deciding to have a home birth as she is worried about not being able to get to one of the other units on time and being forced to have her fifth child at the side of the road.

In 2017 the board said: "The unit would be built on the Waitakere Hospital site ... with a goal of completion in the 2019/2020 financial year."

This week, the board said: "The DHB is currently exploring site options. However, as this process involves third-party negotiations, it is taking longer than expected."

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The DHB said it remained committed to the project. It had approved the business case and no further approvals were required.

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However Brenda Hinton, of the Maternity Services Consumer Council, said it appeared construction of the new unit was caught up in what board meeting minutes call the "major re-development and expansion of Waitakere Hospital".

Rates of medical and surgical intervention in labour and birth were rising at New Zealand maternity hospitals, Hinton said, and outcomes for mothers and babies were better at primary units. Some women in Waitakere went to the Helensville primary birthing unit, but "we don't want women having to travel long distances in labour".

In 2017 the Waitematā DHB said it would build a primary maternity unit at the Waitakere Hospital site (pictured) by June 30, 2020. Now there is less certainty about where and when.
In 2017 the Waitematā DHB said it would build a primary maternity unit at the Waitakere Hospital site (pictured) by June 30, 2020. Now there is less certainty about where and when.

Auckland midwife Carolyn Young said the growing populations of North and West Auckland needed more maternity facilities, including a Waitakere primary birthing unit, which many women had wanted for a long time.

Isis McKay, of Women's Health Action, said her group supported a Waitakere primary birthing unit "mostly because there is a groundswell of support from service users to be able to access such a service".

Expectant Waitakere mother Coralie Archer is disappointed at the lack of a primary maternity unit close to home.

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The 31-year-old lives in Glen Eden with husband Stephen and their four children. Number five is due in about five weeks, and she has opted for a home birth. "When I told my midwife we didn't want a hospital birth she gave me the option of three birthing units — Helensville, Parnell or Huntly. I most likely would have my baby on the way to one of these , so they aren't options for us. So yes, I think there really is a need for a birthing unit in West Auckland. The hospital as the only option is not good enough."