Following the release of the Triennial Maternity Consumer Survey commissioned by Te Whatu Ora, Te Aka Whai Ora acknowledges that there is room for improvement in maternity services but are pleased that work is already underway to improve the experience for whānau.

The survey is conducted triennially to provide assessment of consumer satisfaction with primary maternity services. The last survey was conducted in 2014.

The survey found that 76% of Māori mothers and birthing parents who had a live birth were satisfied with the ‘overall experience of care during their pregnancy, labour and birth, postnatal care and the care they and their pēpi received in the first few weeks at home’. This can be compared to the general sample of 79% who indicated that they were satisfied. 

For Chief Midwifery Officer at Te Aka Whai Ora, Heather Muriwai, it shows that a gap still exists that we are working towards closing. 

“The survey found that Māori mothers and birthing parents were less satisfied than other groups with the care and support they received during two specific stages of the maternity and perinatal journey – the care and support they received while hapū and from hospital or birthing unit staff during their labour and birth.

“They also reported that their cultural needs were not being met in a hospital environment. That included demonstrations of lack of cultural respect, cultural needs being assumed based on physical appearance, and lack of awareness among hospital staff about what was culturally appropriate and respectful.”

Heather says it is important to acknowledge that the survey took place during the COVID-19 period, which was a very difficult time for birthing parents, including Māori, who were unable to have whānau support present at the time of birth or during face-to-face care.

“We understand how this may have impacted the satisfaction levels of whānau with the care they received during this time, and how difficult it would have been for those giving birth or dealing with the loss of a pēpi to not have the usual supports wrapped around them.”

Since the survey was undertaken, several steps have been undertaken to improve the situation, including through Kahu Taurima, a joint approach between Te Aka Whai Ora and Te Whatu Ora on maternity and early years – pre-conception to five years old, or the first 2,000 days of life – for all families in Aotearoa New Zealand.   

“Kahu Taurima will mean whānau will have an opportunity to receive easy to navigate, culturally affirming maternity and early years services that best suit their needs, that they are at the centre of how services are being shaped and delivered, and that they will have choices on what services best suit them,” Heather says.

This year, Te Aka Whai Ora has invested in 40 hauora Māori partners across Aotearoa to provide integrated and whānau-centred care and support in communities.

“These initiatives are by community, for community approaches, co-designed with hauora Māori partners and whānau, which will enable the shifts required to achieve a Tiriti-dynamic, whānau-centered and sustainable maternity and early years system.

In addition, Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora are also working to ensure Aotearoa has a sustainable midwifery workforce. Together we released the Health Workforce Plan this year, which seeks to address workforce pressures on the sector. 

As part of the Plan, earn-as-you-learn and modular training pathways into midwifery careers for Māori are being developed and support for tauira in midwifery is being strengthened. Such initiatives are aimed at developing a more culturally inclusive and safe workforce that reflect the communities they serve,” Heather says.

You can read more from Te Whatu Ora here.