“It feels as if it’s not a priority for them, and that’s that,” Dr Bayes said.
“The government chose not to fund us because they already provide funding to maternity services to deliver antenatal education, which all of them do to some degree.
“But the quality and content is nowhere near what women need, or expectant fathers need, or at a time during the week that people can get there.”
One of WA’s major maternity hospitals, Fiona Stanley, still directs expectant mothers to The Bump for parent education classes.
Dr Bayes said this illustrated the shortfall in support for pregnant women and their families.
“There are midwifery group classes, but the true continuity of care model is not happening,” she said.
“It’s falling far short in the postnatal area.”
Currently, when women reach about 32 weeks in their pregnancy they are advised to book antenatal classes through their hospital. At Fiona Stanley they offered a two-hour breastfeeding forum with a lactation consultant and a two-hour forum with a midwife. But Dr Bayes said these forums were usually mostly an orientation to the hospital.
“We work from a basis of research evidence that says if we work on increasing women’s confidence, reducing their fear of childbirth, they are more likely to have a normal birth that’s more satisfying to them, that they won’t look back on with regret and can go on and parent confidently,” Dr Bayes said.
“It’s a very different product.”
Maternity Choices Australia WA president Kylie Ekin said the WA government had failed to recognise the significant impact The Bump had on not only the physical and mental health of WA families but also the economic impact to tax payers.
“We know that public maternity employees, GP’s and other health care workers refer families to The Bump WA,” she said.
We would suggest that online and telephone support is not adequate when you have got a screaming baby in front of you and you just need someone to show you
Sara Bayes, The Bump
“With this non-for-profit closure where will these families be referred? Where will the high numbers of FIFO families gain increased support? Maternity Choices Australia believe that the closure will ultimately place increased pressure on the already stressed public maternity system with ultimately WA maternity consumers paying the price.
“Time will tell, but it will be interesting to see how this closure and the reduced access to education and support will impact on WA hospital lengths of stay, C-section rates, breastfeeding rates and an area that is often under-funded – mental health for both that of mothers and fathers.”
Ms Ekin said there was no standardised public funded education program across WA.
Dr Bayes said in an age where often mothers and fathers were left on their own to take care of their newborn, it was concerning the government was dismissing the need for services outside of what hospitals provided. Well over 1000 women sought help via The Bump every year.
“There is no village,” she said.
“We provided post natal support groups because the government’s answer in WA to where women get that is child health nurses.
“There is a paucity of child health nurses. They don’t have the capacity to provide drop-in groups, [or] community building sessions.”
She said in relation to the centre’s popular lactation consultant services, the Health Department officials had said to her women could call the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
“We would suggest that online and telephone support is not adequate when you have got a screaming baby in front of you and you just need someone to show you,” Dr Bayes said.
They refer you to The Bump for further courses, but with The Bump being shut down nothing is available to me. I’ve got nowhere to go.
Suzi Read, pregnant mother-to-be
“Yes there is an answer from the government which is something that has the same name as everything we do, but in terms of quality and user-friendliness it’s no match.
“We have got a raft of examples of women walking through our doors in desperation. Last week we had a woman at 38 weeks pregnant, who had tried and failed repeatedly to get into antenatal classes before having her baby. She couldn’t get into classes at her hospital, they were full, so they referred her to us. And that happens all the time.”
Suzi Read is almost 30 weeks pregnant with her first baby and does not have many friends who are pregnant or had children.
“I felt like I really needed support,” she said.
“The hospital I’m booked into doesn’t really run classes, they only run a midwife session that’s more of an information session.
“It’s very short, just two hours.
“Then they refer you to The Bump for further courses, but with The Bump being shut down nothing is available to me. I’ve got nowhere to go. Luckily The Bump found a place for me in one of their last courses, but that’s all.”
She said her hospital had provided a handout which invited her to attend a lactaction consultant talk.
“For anything else they suggest The Bump,” Mrs Read said.
“I don’t know what I don’t know. The hospital keeps saying we will answer all your questions, but I don’t know what to ask. I’ve been reading books and doing research. But that’s nothing like face to face help.
“Hence the vital service that The Bump provides. It’s a different environment, to be in a class and actually talking through things.”
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the antenatal education services provided by The Bump were now covered by WA Health. The funding to provide the services was cut under the previous government on June 30, 2016.
“In addition, The Bump received two six-month extensions of funding to provide Mother Baby Nurture groups; The Bump subcontracted this service to Playgroup WA,” he said.
“The Mother Baby Nurture groups have been formally evaluated and will continue to receive public funding, albeit paid directly to Playgroup WA once a contract is finalised.
“Every public hospital with maternity services offers free parent education sessions in a variety of forms including antenatal care visits and formal classes and workshops.”
He said mothers and babies had better outcomes and experienced greater satisfaction under a continuity of care model where antenatal and postnatal care and education was provided by the same known midwives and doctors rather than outsourcing this to an external provider.
For example, Fiona Stanley Hospital offered a formal weekly group parent education class including a lactation and a midwifery forum run by an experienced midwife, physiotherapist and dietitian.
Bookings were not required and they had a flexible capacity ensuring all attendees could be accommodated.
If requested or required, women could access 1:1 education to ensure all aspects of education were covered.
Australian College of Midwives WA branch chair Louise Keyes said The Bump had a good reputation.
“Any service that provide evidence-based training and education for pregnant women is a good thing,” she said.
“Evidence-based education for women make mothers more confident, you get improved outcomes, they are better prepared for the birth experience and for good parenting.”
She said the cost of private midwives and antenatal education could be prohibitive to some families.
“For a woman that may be on limited funds, that makes it extremely difficult for them,” she said.
“I think that is a gap definitely in health care, if there aren’t enough services for women, it has a knock on effect. If women aren’t prepared they don’t have that grounding for a good birth experience and good parenting.
“The research on breastfeeding, the benefits of it, you really can’t argue against that. But to encourage women to breastfeed or support women to breastfeed you need appropriate preparation classes for it.
“If you don’t have that with at least some funding or subsidy, that’s a shame for women and babies.”
Maternity Choices Australia called for an independent investigation into how government funding for antenatal education was spent state wide, and for a standardised approach to antenatal education provided by the WA health department.
“Families need to have access to an evidence based approach to education by trained educators – not just midwives but midwives who are trained in providing pregnancy and birth education,” Ms Ekin said.
“There also needs to be an increased access to information on families choices for their care.”
Dr Bayes said many new mothers found it difficult to access help with breastfeeding when they needed it.
“The baby is not latching. Not settling,” she said.
“The area we are located in is an area of rapid growth for young families. Lots of those families have got no community. They have moved from interstate or whatever. They’re just looking for connection with other mums, feeling isolated, looking down the barrel of depression.
“Just joining a group and being welcomed among friends makes all the difference in the world. It’s a community mental health issue for me.”
Daile Cross has been with WAtoday since its inception. She writes news features and covers the education round.
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