Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Protecting, supporting and promoting normal birth in New Zealand

In New Zealand we have a National Strategic Plan of Action for Breastfeeding. At the same time intervention rates in birth are skyrocketing, as they are internationally. Breastfeeding is an important health issue for women and their babies, and it is right that we should do all in our power to support breastfeeding in our communities. There is however general lack of acknowledgement of the health risks of birth intervention to women and their babies. Caesarean section is accompanied by significant morbidity to women and to neonates. It also siginificantly increases risks for future pregnancies. This is an issue of concern for me, as it is for many midwives.

I have taken the first couple of pages of the Action Plan for breastfeeding and have substituted Normal Birth for the word breastfeeding. One or two sentences needed to be removed as they were not relevant to normal birth. I would be interested to know what you think of this. If only we could inspire a movement to protect, promote and support normal birth. Is there any way that you think that we could make this happen?

So read on::
The vision for the National Strategic Plan of Action for Normal Birth

Aotearoa New Zealand is a country in which Normal Birth is valued, protected, promoted and supported by the whole of society.
The statements on this page set out the achievements that will show that the vision has been realised in New Zealand.

Women and their wha¯nau/family have the information they need to make confident and informed decisions about Normal Birth, and live and work in an environment that enables and supports their decisions. Women and families have access to support to help them gain, practise and pass on knowledge of Normal Birth to family, friends, and successive generations. Communities, along with health and social services, provide accessible, consistent and knowledgeable support to women and families who need it. Normal Birth rates show a significant improvement across all population groups, and there are no longer any significant differences between the Normal Birth rates of different ethnic, socioeconomic or geographic communities. There are accessible and appropriate Normal Birth education and support services for all eligible women, fathers/partners, families and wha¯nau from all cultural and ethnic groups, and for migrant communities, low-income families and young mothers. Government planning, policy and service delivery decisions are thought through with a view to actively protecting, promoting and supporting Normal Birth. This occurs across all relevant government agencies in ways that fully involve and respond to communities. Where it is necessary, legislation actively and explicitly protects, promotes and supports Normal Birth.
1.1 Priority areas for action for the short term: 2008–2010
The Committee has identified a group of issues that need to be addressed in order to make demonstrable progress in improving Normal Birth rates in New Zealand. The priority areas are listed below:
• Objective 1.1(a): The Ministry of Health provides the leadership for Normal Birth strategy and policy.
• Objective 1.2(a): The Ministry of Health continues to strengthen the accuracy and completeness of the existing dataset on Normal Birth.
• Objective 1.3(a): Identification of New Zealand-specific Normal Birth research needs.
• Objective 1.4(b) The Ministry of Health supports a programme of research into intervention in the normal birth process. National Strategic Plan of Action for Normal Birth 2008–2012 page

Family and community
• Objective 2.1(b): The Ministry of Health works with District Health Boards (DHBs) to assess and plan for improving access to ante-natal education.
• Objective 2.2(b): Communities work with DHBs and other providers to establish new or support existing peer support programmes for Normal Birth.
• Objective 2.3(a): the second phase of the national Normal Birth social marketing campaign promotes positive attitudes to Normal Birth in the community and public places.

Health services
• Objective 3.1(a): All DHBs achieve and maintain Normal Birth Friendly Hospital accreditation.
• Objective 3.2(b): DHBs are aware of and act on the Normal Birth support needs of their Māori, Pacific and other ethnic communities.

Workplace childcare and early childhood education
• Objective 4.1(a): The Ministry of Health continues to link with other agencies (for example the Families Commission, Department of Labour) to support the development of a policy framework for options for extending current paid parental leave entitlements.

1.2 The need for the National Strategic Plan of Action on Normal Birth
Normal Birth is important for the physical, social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing of infants, mothers, fathers/partners and families. There are risks identified with intervention in birth. Normal Birth is important to the health of individuals and communities. [We] now require[s] DHBs to actively work towards improving Normal Birth rates as one way of improving the health status of communities. Concern over declining Normal Birth rates is not unique to New Zealand.

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