Longer hospital stays to help new mothers cope

NZ Herald May 20, 2009

Many women will be able to spend up to four days in hospital after giving birth under an expansion of maternity services to be introduced by the Government. Maternity and medical groups welcomed Health Minister Tony Ryall’s announcement yesterday, which fulfils an election promise with a $103.5 million increase for maternity services, spread over four years. This will provide for longer post-natal stays, extra meetings with health workers for at-risk women during pregnancy and obstetric training for GPs. A 24-hour Plunketline telephone service will also be given full funding, as previously announced. Mr Ryall said: “We have heard from too many new mothers who have felt pressured into going home before they are ready, and those who could benefit from extra support.”

Longer stays would help new mothers establish breast-feeding and gain confidence in caring for their babies, he said. A survey of maternity service users published last year found that 13 per cent of those who gave birth in a hospital or birthing unit went home before they felt ready. They said they needed more rest first, had problems with breast-feeding, were in pain, felt anxious and felt pressured to leave. The rate of exclusive breast-feeding in the first four weeks had declined by 3 percentage points to 74 per cent since the previous survey five years earlier.