By: Emma Russell
Being kicked out of hospital at 5am just three hours after giving birth, unable to walk, still haunts Auckland mum Ellen Chisholm.
Chisholm, who endured a 27-hour labour while her husband was overseas in 2016, described to the Herald her battle with postnatal depression and severe anxiety after her “incredibly traumatic” experience.
Despite the trauma, she felt pressured to leave hospital before she was ready without even being served breakfast or being allowed to sleep. She left the hospital, and her mother drove her to a birthing clinic.
Health professionals have told the Herald that Chisholm’s experience was not uncommon as lack of beds, staff and resourcing was at crisis point in New Zealand hospitals.
A campaign called Mothers Matter, launched this week, hopes to change that.
The group has written to all Members of Parliament calling on the Government to establish a ring-fenced national fund, managed by the Ministry of Health, to ensure women received their preferred postnatal care — whether that be at hospital, home or a birthing unit.
Regardless of the type of birth, all women had the right to receive the clinically and psychologically appropriate amount of time in postnatal care at the primary maternity facility of their choice, Mothers Matter advocate, specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Anil Sharma told the Herald.
He said the postnatal period, especially the first 48 hours, were critical to the health and wellbeing of not only the mother, but also her baby and family.
“Monitoring the health of a new mum and her baby and responding to any changes, needs or complications that may arise was also important.”
Chisholm, a 34-year-old mother-of-two, believes her postnatal depression and anxiety could have been prevented if she had received the care she was entitled to.
All New Zealand women were entitled to 48 hours of funded in-patient care but where that care was received was controlled by each DHB, Sharma said.
This comes as more than 1100 district health board-employed midwives begin a series of two-hour nationwide strikes from today until December 5.
Deputy chief executive of the College of Midwives, Alison Eddy, said the college supported the Mothers Matter campaign as it was becoming more of an issue with staffing shortages.
“Services are chocka with women and there’s not enough staff to provide that postnatal care that women absolutely deserve because it supports them to have that early bonding time with their baby.”
Eddy said new mothers being pressured to leave hospital at 5am was not uncommon as resources were often stretched.
“Midwives can advocate for women to stay longer but the problem is the pressure from the facilities was often so overwhelming it can be a challenge to do that.”
She said often when it was busy the focus was on the birth and ensuring the baby and mother were alive and therefore the job was done, rather than looking at women’s individual experience and giving them the support they needed.
Chisholm said after her second birth she was given the option to stay for up to 48 hours and she left hospital feeling relaxed and confident.
“I want all women to have that same option. Some might want to go home but they should at least get that choice.”
Chisholm said she would never get back those precious months with her baby and wanted to empower women to push for their postnatal care rights.
“It saddens me that I couldn’t enjoy my boy for so long. I hope this campaign empowers other mothers.”
Minister of Health David Clark has been approached for comment.
Source: NZ Herald