Vulnerable women miss out on midwife home care

4 December 2012

Younger socially disadvantaged mothers are missing out on valuable midwife home visits in their first week at home with a new baby, a Murdoch Childrens study has found.

While four out of five women taking part in the study, which was conducted in Victoria and South Australia, said that they were visited at home by a midwife soon after leaving hospital, younger women (under 24 years), women with a low income, and those with a health care concession card were more likely to miss out.

Researchers found that there were state based differences, with women having a baby in South Australia more likely to get a home visit from a midwife in the week after discharge than women giving birth in Victoria.

Lead researcher, Dr Jane Yelland said, "most women who had a visit from a midwife were very positive about having a midwife visit them soon after discharge. But women who are more likely to need and derive benefit from domiciliary care were less likely to receive it. There appears to be an inverse care law operating in maternity care."

Study author Dr Mary Anne Biro said that postnatal domiciliary services have expanded rapidly over the past decade as length of stay in hospital after having a baby has shortened.

"This is the first time we have had evidence about which women are getting a home visit soon after discharge, and who is missing out. Going home with a new baby can be a very stressful time for women, especially as most women are still recovering from the birth itself. It is important that women have good access to primary health care both for themselves and for their baby, and that care is tailored to their needs. " she said.

"it is important that vulnerable women don't miss out on basic primary health care in the critical first few weeks after having a baby".

The study found that women who had a shorter length of stay in hospital were not more likely to have a visit from a midwife soon after discharge than women staying longer.

 The study was published in Australian Health Review.