23 Jun 2015

Call to better engage with Maori to lower still births

7:56 pm on 23 June 2015

Engaging mothers and whānau more effectively with maternity health services has been described as the best way to reduce the number of Māori still born babies.

In a report released by the Prenatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee, still births after 37 weeks of pregnancy dropped from 117 in 2007 to 69 in 2013, but it is believed that Maori and Pasifika babies make up the majority of those who died.

Māori medical doctor and researcher Sue Crengle said Maori babies were more likely to experience still births and die in the first 12 months of life, compared to European babies.

Ms Crengle said that was often due to their socio-economic situation.

"It's about socio economic status, it is about services and how we provide services, it is about women being able to access care and it is about some lifestyle choices, like smoking.

"We as a country need to address a number of issues and in particular socio economic deprivation and what we can do to relieve the burden of deprivation on whānau."

Leigh Duncan is the chair of He Hono Wahine, the Māori womens' health committee of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Dr Duncan said some Māori wahine may need a different type of maternity care, but no one size fits all.

"What is right for one Māori is not necessarily right for another, and that is where you quite often hear the phrase, "if we get it right for Maori we get it right for everybody", in that by taking care of people as individuals then we can help get the help and things that they require."

Dr Duncan said smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy was a strong marker linked to still births.

She said it was also important for mothers-to-be to seek medical advice early.

"Being fit and healthy before you get pregnant makes a difference."

Dr Duncan said older Māori women could and should play an important role in helping younger women.

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