Opinion: Why we need to support Aboriginal women’s choice to give birth on country

June 15, 2016

Professor Rhonda MarriottBirthing on country generally refers to an Aboriginal mother giving birth to her child on the lands of their ancestors, ensuring a spiritual connection to the land for the mother and her baby.

In an article for The Conversation, Murdoch’s Professor of Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Rhonda Marriott and her co-authors argue that getting maternity care right for Aboriginal women will be critical in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal babies. Currently 9.6 of every 1,000 Aboriginal babies are stillborn, die in childbirth or in the first 28 days of life. The authors believe birthing on country could help.

Most Aboriginal women live in urban or rural areas and can easily reach a hospital for childbirth. The more difficult debate about birthing on country involves women living in remote areas. Where birthing on country is not offered or supported, women must leave their families weeks before birth to wait in a regional centre, resulting in practical and social concerns around care for their dependents.

Professor Marriott and her co-authors say service providers should communicate sensitively and build trust to discuss birthing options with Aboriginal women, arguing that it’s safer to encourage and support all birthing choices so women can make an informed choice, than silence women if choices are not respected.

The debate on services and choices for women needs to be transparent and centred on the best outcomes for the woman and her baby. This Conversation opinion piece and the release of a joint Position Statement on Birthing on Country by three leading organisations (the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, the Australian College of Midwives and the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia – CRANA Plus) will provide a platform for that debate.

The full article in The Conversation is available to read here.

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