An Otago mum who gave birth on her midwife’s floor believes women and babies are being put in danger by the region’s inadequate maternity services.
Kristi James, of Hawea Flat, gave birth at 5.32am on Thursday at her midwife’s Wanaka office after waking up at 3 am with contractions three minutes apart.
“[The midwife] said, ‘you are not going anywhere. You are going to have the baby here in the office’. That scared the crap out of me,” James said.
She had discussed her birthing plan with an obstetrician and her midwife after she needed an emergency cesarean with her first child. She was meant to have her second baby in Dunedin Hospital but was not due for another four days. Her first baby was born two weeks late.
James said she was “incredibly lucky” and safely delivered baby Makail, who weighed 4.1 kilograms. “Someone else will not be so lucky. I am incredibly thankful it wasn’t me.
“We are putting women and babies in an incredible amount of danger for no reason. All we need to have is a primary birthing unit that has all the equipment needed for any kind of complications. What we really need is a hospital close by.”
Her experience was proof babies did not follow rules, she said, despite recent claims from Southern District Health Board (SDHB) chief executive Chris Fleming that women could plan for deliveries.
“We did the best we could. Long story short – babies don’t pay attention to plans or rules,” James said. James founded community group Save Our Wanaka Midwives after the town was left with only one midwife more than a year ago.
“The district health board has been trying to help but it’s not close to enough. We are back up to two midwives but there are over 200 women with planned births in the area … 220 births, two midwives … do your maths.”
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said maternity services in the Otago-Southland region were now at a crisis point.
“It’s a miracle there were no complications and that this baby arrived into the world safely because there’s no birthing unit in Wanaka, there are no emergency maternity services to support local mothers, and the nearest base hospital is three-and-a-half hours away in Dunedin. This community is just so isolated and its lack of maternity services is shocking.”
Dean had worked with James over the past two years for improved maternity services in the Upper Clutha region.
“It’s disturbing that her fears over a lack of services have now affected her in a very real way,” Dean said. The office birth came hot on the heels of a roadside birth near Lumsden, in Southland, last month.
Midwives have been calling for Lumsden’s maternity centre to be reinstated after the SDHB downgraded it to a maternal and child Hub in April.
The board is investigating the roadside birth, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was awaiting a report on. An investigation is also underway into the setup of the hub after a midwife found essential equipment such as medical oxygen was missing.
Featured image: New Wanaka mum Kristi James with husband Michael Coonrod and baby Makail James, who was born on the floor of a midwife’s office on Thursday morning. Picture Supplied