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Community leaders propose continuous care model to improve maternity care in Logan

Emma Nelson and Roger Marshall

Matter of life: Emma Nelson with son Mason and grandfather Roger Marshall are backing a proposal that would offer continuous maternity care for pregnant mothers. Photo: Emilie Ng

PREGNANCY is supposed to be a precious time for new mums but, for Logan woman Emma Nelson, it means avoiding hospitals and doctors’ appointments.

The 24-year-old mother of two is expecting a third child in August, but a negative experience during her second pregnancy has left her tending to avoid the health system.

Diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with her second child, Ms Nelson said doctors blamed her when her blood sugar levels weren’t improving.

“One doctor told me (the baby) was going to be stillborn and it was my fault for not controlling my blood sugars,” Ms Nelson said.

Rather than feeling cared for, she said trips to the doctor left her “distraught”.

“Every day I thought ‘What happens if I kill him’, because I couldn’t control my sugars even though I was trying to do everything right and I was taking insulin,” Ms Nelson said.

“I didn’t want to go back because I couldn’t handle it.”

By contrast, Ms Nelson said during her first pregnancy she was connected into a young parents’ group and offered a midwife who looked after her during the entire pregnancy and six weeks following.

“That was great because she had your phone number and I had her on Facebook so any minute of the day I could message her, and being paranoid about a first-time mum she would also make it feel better,” she said.

The program eventually lost government funding while Ms Nelson was in her second pregnancy.

Her pregnancy experience is not an isolated story in Logan City.

According to Queensland Community Alliance community organiser Devett Kennedy, one in 10 women in Logan don’t receive the maternity care they need.

“That’s twice as bad as the rest of Queensland,” Mr Kennedy said.

A maternity care project proposed by the Queensland Community Alliance, which has a partnership with Brisbane archdiocese, could help Ms Nelson and other new mums give birth with peace of mind.

The project aims to introduce a continuous maternity care program, taking into consideration best-practice advice from the midwifery course from Griffith University.

Expectant mothers would be paired with a midwife who would look after the woman’s full maternity care needs.

While they would still be expected to visit a hospital during the pregnancy, the appointed midwife would also be there with the mother.

“I had people I had never met in my entire life deliver Mason, whereas the midwife who I had with (first child) Tyler delivered Tyler,” Ms Nelson said.

“Having a familiar face in the room when she was doing this was great, one that knew me, knew where my limits were.”

The QCA are also proposing the program include care of the mother for up to one year after birth, offering much needed support to women who are at risk of developing post-natal depression.

“If we can stop other mums from becoming that depressed to the point where they can’t feel a connection with their babies because pregnancy and labour and being a mum was so traumatic, it would be so much more ideal to create better mums than mums who think they’re failing because it’s so difficult,” Ms Nelson said.

Maternity care would also be linked into community centres, many of which offer other vital services such as family support programs and childcare.

Local community leader Roger Marshall, who has attended project meetings with the QCA, said the notion of continuous care for mothers was at the centre of the maternity hub projects.

The level of care Mr Marshall hoped to see from the program was also important because Ms Nelson is her granddaughter and, in August, is looking forward to welcoming a healthy grandchild.

“There’s a lot of information that says this continuous care model Emma had with her first pregnancy is good practice,” he said.

QCA presented the proposal at an assembly at St Maximilian Kolbe Church, Marsden, on May 17.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick attended the assembly on behalf of Metro South Health, who is in discussions with QCA about the proposal.

Kingston Marsden parish youth leader and mother-of-three Christine Lapalapa welcomed the Logan community to the assembly.

Mrs Lapalapa said the program was reminiscent of the care she received during her first pregnancy in New Zealand, which followed the continuous care model.

“We got to choose who our midwife was and they followed us through,” she said.

“We had monthly appointments, which led to fortnightly appointments which led her to calling me, saying ‘Is it time? Is it time?’.

“That relationship that we built made being a first-time mum so much more comfortable as opposed to the second and third child here (in Australia).”

Mrs Lapalapa said her support for the QCA maternity care proposal also related to Pope Francis’ call to be a “field hospital church”.

Members of the local community who attended the Logan assembly at St Maximilian Kolbe were to sign a pledge to support the community maternity hubs proposal.

Mr Kennedy said members of the Logan community understood the benefit of supporting mothers through the program, particularly to eliminate social problems that could occur if children and women weren’t given proper care.

“If we can do something positive that helps people to have that experience when they’re pregnant, giving birth and soon afterward then we start to improve a whole lot of other problems around health and education for the rest of life,” he said.

Metro South Health said it had been working closely with the Logan community and key maternity consultation groups for more than 12 months to meet the needs of Logan families in the best way possible.

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