News > NZCOM letter to members

NZCOM letter to members

How New Zealand College of Midwives is responding to media frenzy over latest research undermining midwifery care.

The last few days have been difficult for all midwives and many women throughout New Zealand as the news media made the recently published ‘Comparison of Maternity Care Models’ research paper headline news.

There are many issues with the study which have been highlighted by the College, the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Committee of the Royal Australia and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and which have also been supported by independent research analysts.

We would like to reassure you all that the College has been working to challenge assumptions and provide the realities of midwifery practice to the media. We have released several press statements and circulated them widely both to the media and to the health sector and women’s groups. We have utilised the social media in the form of Facebook and Twitter. We have responded to numerous individual interview requests which included:

  • TV interviews for TV 1 and TV 3 news
  • Radio interviews with Newstalk ZB, Drive, Radio New Zealand Morning Report, News and RNZ Checkpoint
  • Newspaper interviews with The Press, Otago Daily Times, The New Zealand Herald, The Listener, Ashburton Times
  • International UK press, Australian College of Midwives and other Midwifery organisations throughout the world as their media picked it up; International websites and the ICM research standing committee
  • Social media

The RANZCOG President was also interviewed by TV1 but their supportive response was not aired. It seems that if responses did not contribute to the controversy they were not reported. Unfortunately controversy is always news and despite the research paper demonstrating comparable outcomes with other countries the media have focused on the differences between the midwives and private obstetricians.

As you and other well-informed researchers and colleagues within maternity care will know, this is not a valid comparison. Other points to note:

  • A retrospective observational study is not strong evidence – systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials are the strongest evidence and these have found that midwifery led care provides safe outcomes for women and their babies.
  • The study identifies that the absolute risk of adverse neonatal outcomes are low and comparable to other similar countries.
  • The study could only identify who women registered with at booking.
  • We have one model of integrated maternity care in New Zealand which relies on well resourced midwife LMCs, hospital midwives, obstetricians, paediatricians and allied health professionals. We are all part of the one system and all rely on each other.

The College of Midwives is continuing to work to counter the damaging effects of the media reports. Please find attached the joint statement from the Ministry of Health, RANZCOG and the College of Midwives released today – please share widely. We are all conscious of how distressing this sort of misrepresentation can be to both women and their midwives so we will be producing a joint video available for midwives on YouTube to share with women which is designed to reassure women that New Zealand maternity services are safe. We trust this show of solidarity and faith in our New Zealand maternity system will help you relieve unnecessary fear and distress for women and families. We are planning for the video to be available on the Colleges and the Ministry website on Monday.

Midwives in New Zealand have received overwhelming support from women, women’s groups/organisation and their obstetric colleagues following the recent misleading media headlines.

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you for all the messages of support. As midwives we know that our system is world class and the envy of many and knowing we have the support of women and their families and our obstetric colleagues helps us to stay strong.

Nga Mai o Aoteoroa highlights the benefits of the New Zealand model for Maori.

The Midwifery Partnership Model of care, which we have in Aotearoa, reflects the values of Maori and enables customary practice of Maori to continue, which was almost forgotten under the previous medical model.

Prior to the introduction of our Midwifery Partnership Model, our nannies have many stories of being forced to birth in hospitals whilst whanau were excluded and rejected into the corridors.

Today, our midwifery model places women at the centre of midwifery care which facilitates and encourages whanau to share in the experience of Haputanga (childbirth), celebrate the strength of Karakia and Waiata, and assists whanau to bury their placenta on whenua.

Unfortunately, the report released by the University of Otago two days ago is quick to undermine the ability of our midwives and puts at risk the advancement made under this model for Maori.

It also implies midwives work in isolation, when in-fact midwives and medical practitioners share a healthy respect for each other’s profession.

Midwifery LMC and medical-Led LMC are both available to all women in Aotearoa. The fact that an overwhelming number choose to birth with a midwife is testimony to the Midwifery Partnership of placing women at the centre of care.

Beverly Te Huia 30 Sep 2016

Nga Maia Chair

Australian College of Midwives response to the research

Kia Kaha everyone.


Karen Guilliland

Chief Executive

30th September 2016