Patterns of transfer in labour and birth in rural New Zealand

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Rural and Remote Health, 2011, 11 (2)
Issue Date:
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Introduction: For many women, and particularly rural women, birthing locally and within their own community is important for personal, social and/or cultural reasons. If concerns about the woman or her baby mean transfer to a secondary or tertiary facility is necessary, this can be disruptive and stressful, especially if road transfer is complicated by terrain, weather or distance, as is often the case in rural New Zealand. The objective of this study was to explore the number of and reason for transfers during labour and birth for well women, close to full term, from primary rural maternity facilities to specialist care in rural New Zealand. Methods: This retrospective survey of 45 rural maternity units in the North and South Islands of New Zealand was conducted over a 2 year period ending on 30 June 2006. The participants were the 4678 women who began labour in a rural facility during this time period. Results: The survey response rate was 66.6%. The data revealed that 16.6% of women who commenced labour in a rural unit were transferred in labour or within 6 hours of birth; 3% of babies born in rural units were transferred after birth and up to 7 days post-birth. The primary reason for maternal transfer was slow progress in labour (49.67%). Of the 123 babies transferred, this was most often due to respiratory problems (43%). Key features of the rural context (times and distances to be travelled, geological and climatic characteristics, types of transport systems and availability of local assistance) influenced the timeliness of the decision to transfer. Conclusions: Within New Zealand's regionalised perinatal system, midwives make cautious decisions about transfer, taking into account the local rural local circumstances, and also the topography as it impacts on transport. © JA Patterson, M Foureur, JP Skinner, 2011.
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