Maternity Services Consumer Council Review of Mamas in Lockdown

In the latest newsletter from Maternity Services Consumer Council, Mamas in Lockdown receives a fantastic review. 

All those involved in maternity care should read this book. 

"Denise Ives is a breastfeeding counsellor who continued to support families, during the level 3 & 4 lockdown period and heard first-hand of their feelings of isolation and lack of support. She felt that giving these parents the opportunity to write down their experiences of maternity care during the 6 weeks of the Levels 4 and 3 “lockdowns” might assist some to process and move on from what was, for many, a bewildering, anxious and lonely time – very different from the joyous anticipation and celebration that most had envisioned.  

Nearly 80 stories (mostly women’s) are shared in this book.  They are mainly stories of resilience in the face of changes over which the women/couples/whānau had no control.  What is striking is the diversity of background and circumstances in individual women’s/whānau experience of maternity in Aotearoa NZ.  Many women were already coping with major life changes and some with considerable trauma before the lockdown restrictions were imposed.  Inequities of access to services were occurring prior to lockdown and the absence of a national maternity strategy during the lockdown, increased and exacerbated these.

Some women did change their birth plan to a home birth so that there would be no separations in their families.  For others, the high levels of antenatal surveillance and monitoring that have become such a normal part of women’s pregnancy experience, contributed hugely to anxiety and loneliness, as women were required to attend for scans and tests without the support and comfort of their spouse/partner/midwife etc. Too many mothers and babies ended up having emergency births or major procedures alone.

Many fathers/partners were prevented from being present during key maternity consultations and were not allowed to provide in person comfort and support during investigative procedures, after difficult births, or when babies needed special care or surgery. 

Women reported choosing or being  required to leave hospital within hours of giving birth – regardless of whether they had birthed vaginally or by c-section.  It seems like a miracle that there were no tragedies arising from these early discharge policies, although some did result in medical complications. Postnatal care for many women during Level 4 was sparse and cursory and this led to many mother:baby pairs experiencing problems with breastfeeding.  Different facilities and DHBs classed different procedures as “essential” or not. Lactation consultant services and tongue tie remediation assessment and services were mostly not considered essential. One woman, desperate for breastfeeding help wrote to the PM to request that Lactation Consultants be considered “essential” workers. (Given that supermarkets were allowed to operate to ensure that our population did not starve one would have thought that the same care could have been extended to newborn babies.)

Many writers talked about prolonged bouts of anxiety and crying; many expressed sadness at missing the support and involvement of the wider whānau, but many (particularly first time parents), when they had adjusted to their enforced isolation, enjoyed the quiet, uninterrupted, family bonding during the weeks of lockdown. 

These stories are a testament to the resilience of women and their whanau and the dedication of many midwives, individuals and organisations that recognised the needs of mothers, babies and their whānau and continued to provide innovative and safe support during “the lockdown”."