Unmet need for antenatal classes

A lack of antenatal classes in Central Otago is leaving some pregnant women unable to access Ministry of Health specified levels of maternity care.

Plunket, which provides the courses, blames higher than usual demand for the four classes it runs between Cromwell and Alexandra per year citing an increase in pregnancies "above regular expected levels".

The classes, labelled by the ministry as pregnancy and parenting education (PPE) classes follow the ministry’s recommended service specifications that include labour and birth, stages of labour, choices during and after birth, pain relief options, infant feeding and newborn care.

One Alexandra woman, who is 18 weeks into her pregnancy, said the classes on offer in Central Otago were of little use to her.

Run by Plunket based on funding allocated by the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) the only classes on offer in Alexandra were in late July — her baby is due in August, she said.

In Cromwell the situation was worse with the only classes offered being listed as October.

"I registered for the Plunket classes nice and early, but those dates don’t work, obviously."

This prompted her to inquire about more classes being made available.

"I just left it for a while and had not heard back from Plunket, so I said ‘what’s the go?’

"And then I discovered there were four PPE classes available in Wanaka."

Her motive was simply to put the question to Plunket, she said.

"When I was in comms [communications] with Plunket, it was not to complain but to start the conversation about more classes in Central Otago."

She had since been told some classes may be available in Cromwell in May and June but may opt to attend PPE classes available in Wanaka instead.

"There are two Saturday sessions in Wanaka, and Plunket have also put me on a waiting list for a Cromwell class possibly running May 5 to June 9 — I think travelling to Wanaka twice might be easier than six mid-week trips to Cromwell."

The Cromwell classes had also yet to be confirmed as going ahead, she said.

Plunket southern regional operations manager Linda Hill said it was a case of demand exceeding supply.

"We are currently experiencing a higher demand for the PPE courses than usual in Central Otago due to an increase in pregnancies above regular expected levels."

There were four PPE/antenatal courses held in Central Otago each year, and Plunket alternated these courses between Alexandra and Cromwell, she said.

"We alternate the locations because we see a sporadic need between the two areas throughout the year."


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