Official plan to health-check mums

NZ Herald 19 November 2013
Making sure pregnant mothers see a doctor within 10 weeks of conception should be a national priority, say MPs working to improve children’s health.

A parliamentary committee behind an inquiry into child health and prevention of child abuse found that in parts of New Zealand, the proportion of women having antenatal checks was “Third World” – as low as 17 per cent in south Auckland.

The committee heard about high teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy rates, and recommended an overhaul of sexual and reproductive services including improved access to contraception and mandatory sexual education in schools.

It made bold recommendations to combat alcohol abuse by pregnant mothers, including requiring “unequivocal” warning labels on beer, wine and spirit bottles.

It also recommended that the Ministry of Health create a target to ensure 90 per cent of pregnant women booked an antenatal assessment within 10 weeks of conception.

The committee’s report, published yesterday, sends a strong message to the Government that it should shift its focus and funding to the period between preconception and three years of age for the greatest social and economic return.