Jim McGinty

Jim McGinty

Attorney General; Minister for Health; Electoral Affairs

    Baby boom brings more options for WA mums

    16/01/2008 12:00 AM

    Almost 30,000 babies were born in Western Australia last year and a new plan will ensure the growing number of expectant mothers have more choice in how and where they give birth.

    Health Minister Jim McGinty said preliminary figures showed a record 29,420 births - a rise of approximately 19 per cent since 2002 when 24,782 babies were born.

    “WA is experiencing a baby boom and now, more than ever, we need to look at the choices we offer mums, staffing, the types of services we provide and how we provide them,” Mr McGinty said.

    “The new ‘Improving Maternity Services: Working Together Across Western Australia’ policy outlines the direction WA Health will take in the development of maternity services over the coming five years.

    “WA Health will start using this plan immediately to develop greater choices and support during pregnancy and birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies outside the current tertiary and secondary hospital system.

    “High risk pregnancies will still be delivered under the care of an obstetrician and women who want to have a GP-led birth will still be able to access that kind of support. However, we will be developing more community-based primary care services and birthing options which are closer to people’s homes.”

    As part of the implementation of the policy WA Health will:
    • consider the development of family birthing centres as part of any major new hospitals or redevelopments throughout the metropolitan area or in regional centres. The new family birthing centres will be based on the existing centre at King Edward Memorial Hospital which provides 24-hour midwife-led care;
      Throughout consultation on the new policy, many women expressed an interest in this type of service and WA Health is already investigating the feasibility of establishing a birthing centre in the South-West.
    • develop initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal women and their babies. In 2005, the Aboriginal perinatal (children aged up to 28 days) mortality rate was 19.2 per 1,000 births, compared with 9.5 per 1,000 births in the non-indigenous population;
      This policy will provide the cornerstone for the development of a State-wide Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Strategy to improve the health of Aboriginal mothers, babies and children.
      The department will also develop other initiatives including more community-based antenatal and postnatal maternity care services and the expansion of the successful Strong Women, Strong Babies, Strong Culture program, which encourages senior indigenous women to support younger indigenous pregnant women throughout WA.
    • expand the number of State Government funded places available each year in the Community Midwife home birth program, pending the results of an independent professional review of homebirths commissioned by the Department of Health;
      The Department of Health has worked closely with Community Midwifery Western Australia (CMWA) to ensure continuing high standards in the program.
    • develop guidelines for the appropriate use of elective caesarean sections. The caesarean section rate continues to rise and stood at 32.7 per cent in 2006, compared with 18.4 per cent in 1991. Unless there is clinical need, caesarean sections will not be performed prior to 39 weeks of gestation to reduce the risk of complications for babies (this is consistent with the guidelines produced in New South Wales).
    The Minister said it was important to maintain levels of safety and ensure women were aware that they had a large range of birthing options.

    “In the vast majority of births there is no need for a high level of intervention,” he said.

    “This policy will make sure women receive detailed information on the implications of birthing options and interventional techniques such as caesareans, ultrasounds or epidurals through the development of evidence-based, high quality, supported consumer education.”

    Other changes under the plan include:
    • ensuring women receive better information about the options available to them before conception, during pregnancy, labour, birth and post-birth;
    • the development of State-wide clinical guidelines to ensure safe and high quality care; and
    • the increased use of online information for health professionals and the community.
    “This policy is about making the best use of our maternity care workforce to provide safe sustainable choices in the best interests of women and their families in every part of the State,” Mr McGinty said.

    The Minister said more than 1,700 members of the public along with 250 health professionals had been consulted during the development of the policy.

    “It is focused on women and their babies and will see a move to more accessible and safe services for all women across the State,” he said.

    Copies of the policy can be found at http://www.healthnetworks.health.wa.gov.au/maternitycare

    Source: Midwives Annual Report (1997 to 2005). 2006 Midwives Data Collection.
    2007 Midwives Data Collection + additional information from Health Services, as at January 15, 2008.
    2007 data point is preliminary and subject to change.
    Preliminary 2007 data indicates a total figure of 29,420.
    Percentage change between 1997 and 2007 is 16.4 per cent.
    Percentage change between 2002 and 2007 is 18.7 per cent.

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