New toolkit aims to prevent maternity care inequities after lockdown

A toolkit has been developed by Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington researchers, in partnership with Ngāti Pāhauwera, to connect pregnant women with time-sensitive care and manaaki during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The toolkit, Hapū Māmā Connecting (HMC), is a COVID-19 interim tool that focuses on pregnant women who have not connected with a GP or midwife in their first trimester.

Professor Bev Lawton, Director of Te Tātai Hauora o Hine—The Centre for Women's Health Research, says there are time-sensitive actions in the first trimester of pregnancy that can reduce potential harm and death. She says delaying assessment and care until the lockdown is over risks poor outcomes and greater health disparities further down the line, particularly for Māori women and their infants.

“It is important not to forget that maternity care is still essential during the lockdown. We want pregnant women who are staying home in their bubble to get connected to maternity care by calling up their GP or midwife, and this tool helps the clinician to provide that care,” she says.

“The message is do not wait. If someone in your whānau is pregnant encourage them to get in touch with their GP for a consult by phone.”

Researchers are working with iwi to ensure Māori women hear the HMC kaupapa. Previous research from the Centre has shown that there can be many barriers to care in early pregnancy, particularly for Māori women in rural areas. Ngāti Pāhauwera Kaumātua and community advisor Matthew Bennett says this is of particular concern.

“Pandemics have exerted enormous tolls in indigenous peoples throughout history. The lockdown means there is less use of health and whānau services and this is already impacting on my local community,” he says.

Ambassadors of the kaupapa, such as  former Miss Universe New Zealand Harlem-Cruz Atarangia-Haia, are working with Iwi to spread the word to Māori women.

The toolkit is also supported by several clinicians, including obstetrician and gynaceologist Dr Leigh Duncan, GP Dr John McMenamin, and maternal fetal medicine specialist Professor Peter Stone.

The HMC toolkit includes a working form and guidelines for practitioners to conduct a phone consult with the pregnant woman who is not yet connected to a midwife. It runs through a series of questions that assesses COVID-19 symptoms, previous pregnancies, flu vaccination, and other health factors that may impact on māmā or baby.

The toolkit has been distributed to GPs through the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) and is being made available by Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā (the National Māori Pandemic Group) and at