© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Midwife shortage creates gaps in cultural care

Charlotte Cook
All midwives train to be culturally competent and learn Maori birthing practices   Mama Congo

A shortage of Maori midwives leaves expecting Maori mums without choice.

The College of Midwives says both Pakeha and Maori midwives are having to learn more Maori practices to combat the shortage of Maori midwives available.

New Zealand College of Midwifery spokesperson Alison Eddy says over 20 per cent of births in New Zealand are of Maori descent but only 6 percent of midwives are Maori.

"Midwives are becoming more knowledgeable about it, not just Maori midwives. Things such as tying the umbilical cord with flax and using pounamu to cut the umbilical cord," Eddy says. 

She says Ti kanga Maori birthing practices are becoming more common and midwives are working hard to learn about them so Maori women's needs can be met.

Eddy says fewer people are enrolling to become midwives than ever before.