By Emily Norman
For Wairarapa mothers-to-be, midwives are the lifeline they call upon throughout their pregnancy hardships, and post-natal concerns.
But the Wairarapa District Health Board is anticipating a steep reduction in the availability of self-employed lead maternity carers (LCM) in the coming months.
There are more than 400 births each year in Wairarapa, and many LCMs are fully booked, some right up to December.
Wairarapa DHB spokesperson Anna Cardno said steps were already being taken to find supportive solutions to ensure the needs of Wairarapa parents will continue to be appropriately met.
She said the Wairarapa DHB Maternity Unit was “fully staffed at the moment”, employing 19 midwives who provided secondary and complex obstetric care.
“In addition, across the district there can be up to 10 self-employed lead maternity carers (LMCs) to support mothers pre and post-natally in the community and through routine birthing at home or in the hospital.”
LMCs are independent private business owners who receive funding directly from the ministry.
Find Your Midwife, a website that lists the availability of nine Wairarapa LMCs, showed that out of a combined 72 months up until December, there are only five months listed as “available” between the nine midwives, 44 months listed as “unavailable”, and 23 listed as “enquire”.
Ms Cardno said historically the number of LMCs at any one time varied depending on many differing factors; including lifestyle choices, managing the geographical distances involved with serving clients across the length of the Wairarapa valley, and the complexity of running an effective business with the relatively small number of births.
“There are also the wider challenges of an aging workforce,” she said.
The New Zealand College of Midwives were contacted for comment on whether there was a shortage of LCMs in Wairarapa, but said they could not add anything extra to the information the DHB had already provided.