A Charles Sturt University (CSU) lecturer has urged people to reflect on the vital role of midwives and the limited access women in rural areas have to close by birthing services on the International Day of Midwives today (May 5).
CSU lecturer and midwifery discipline lead Jeannine Bradow said many rural women didn't have access to birthing services nearby and often had to relocate to bigger regional centres for care.
"The thing to get out of today would be that we actually need resources and we need staff in rural areas so women don't have to relocate," Mrs Bradow said.
"We need to look at resources, we need to look at funding, we need to lobby government. It's unfair."
Mrs Bradow said there were as many as 130 midwifery units which had closed down in rural Australia in the last 30 years, meaning more rural women were having to leave home to give birth.
"We need to be thinking about how we can get midwifery led models back into these areas, so women don't have to leave home," she said.
"We know that all of the models that provide continuity of care to women have better health outcomes for mother and baby."
She said women who had midwifery led care had better birth experiences.
"[They] have less use of pain relief during labour, they have shorter labours, they have better breastfeeding outcomes, they have less incidence of postnatal depression," she said.
She said many rural towns had no birthing services and had to travel long distances to access them.
"When you're in labour, it's really hard to get comfortable sometimes and if you've got an hour road trip that could be the longest and hardest hour of your life," she said.
"If you've got contractions, if your water breaks in the car, if you're trying to get comfortable, you may find that you want to be on all fours and in a car you can't do that safely, so it can be a really uncomfortable drive.
"There are some services around Australia where women have to drive more than an hour to access care.
"I think they're the women who would relocate to wait it out in regional areas, because driving four hours in labour would be hideous."
She said that if women did leave home to birth they'd usually arrive a couple of days before their due date and then have to sit around and wait.
"It's a financial burden for starters, because they have to find somewhere to stay within the area of the hospital," she said.
"There's that emotional burden of being in isolation away from the rest of their family and their support networks.
"If women don't relocate and they stay in their rural area and leave it until labour to travel, then they run that risk of birthing on the side of the road, which can be quite frightening."
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