Planned caesarean sections are being extra-scrutinised at Auckland hospitals as boards try to free up space for any influx of coronavirus cases.
The move by Auckland District Health Board to "double-check" the clinical reasons for elective C-sections comes as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise in a locked-down New Zealand.
"Like all DHBs, at Auckland DHB we have been preparing to ensure we have capacity for Covid-19 cases," a spokeswoman said.
"As part of this work, we are double-checking there is clinical indication for caesarean sections, as these cannot be performed or publicly funded in New Zealand unless there is a clinical reason to do so."
One expectant first-time Auckland mother was devastated when told on Tuesday that her long-planned caesarean scheduled for next week had been cancelled in favour of a natural birth.
With a long family history of birth complications, her C-section had been planned since day one, supported by her obstetrician.
"The baby needs to come out and I have reason to believe that if it does come out naturally that I'm going to have some long-term and severe complications from it," said the woman in her early 30s who wished to remain anonymous.
"It definitely feels like it's been taken out of my hands and out of the hands of the people I trust."
While she appreciated that all fellow Kiwis are making sacrifices and lifestyle changes during the Covid-19 pandemic, and accepts that there will be no visitors allowed after the birth, she didn't believe the safety of herself, and her unborn child, should be put at risk.
"Most people who have C-sections, do so for a reason, whether it's a psychological reason or a medical one. The whole 'too posh to push' is a bit of a fallacy. That's when it becomes a bit too much to swallow."
But after her obstetrician lobbied on her behalf, she got the news yesterday that it'll still go ahead next week.
Canterbury DHB director of midwifery Norma Campbell says they are also continuing with c-sections where it is "clinically indicated".
"If women are in the small category of having Covid-19 during their labour, in Canterbury we are well-resourced as a health system to manage these cases currently. This may change but that also depends on how many in the community become unwell, so everyone doing their bit to keep Covid-19 out of our facilities is vitally important," Campbell said.
Capital & Coast District Health Board Incident Controller Joy Farley said they are closely monitoring the "rapidly evolving" Covid-19 pandemic and making plans accordingly.
"We are not currently deferring planned caesarean sections, and we continue to assess the delivery of our services and adapt as developments progress."
The College of Midwives wouldn't comment on DHB policy but midwifery adviser Claire MacDonald said midwives were used to working under pressure and were coping with the Covid-19 crisis.
"They are continuing to do an amazing job with pregnant women, new mums and the wider maternity team they work within," she said.
"Women can be assured that midwifery care and maternity support is, and will continue to be, available for them at this challenging time. Midwives always put the safety and well-being of a woman and baby, as the top priority, and that will not change."
Expectant mothers are worried not only about catching the virus but about how it will impact their birth plans, their ability to cope, and their babies' first vital days.
Katie Williamson earlier told the Herald that giving birth during the lockdown was very tense.
Although the Wellington mum said staff were amazing, she was allowed only one support person during labour.
Then, when Williamson returned home with her little boy, the midwife could come for only 15 minutes, rather than an hour.
"Our baby is doing really well," Williamson said. "And the birth once induced was actually amazing, it was really fast. It was the unknowns in between that were stressful."
Caesarean sections (elective and emergency) in New Zealand -
• 1980: 9 per cent of total births nationally
• 1990: 15 per cent of total births nationally
• 2001: 21 per cent of total births nationally
• 2010: 23 per cent of total births nationally
Source: Ministry of Health