Pregnancy, Childbirth & The First Weeks

Pregnancy, Childbirth & The First Weeks

Your lead maternity carer will care for you while you are pregnant, during labour and birth and for 4 to 6 weeks after your baby is born. All maternity care is free unless you choose a specialist doctor.


Key points about pregnancy, childbirth and the first weeks

  • most women in New Zealand can choose maternity services that are free
  • your lead maternity carer (LMC) is there to provide care and support you through pregnancy, labour and the first weeks of your child's life
  • your LMC is a midwife or specialist doctor who provides maternity care for you
  • you choose who provides your maternity care
  • your midwife, a researcher, or clinician may offer you or your baby the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial

How can I choose a lead maternity carer?

Lead maternity carer examining a woman lying on her bed during an antenatal check and woman's other child looks on

Choose early

When you find out you are pregnant, choose a lead maternity carer as early as possible. This is very important for your health and for your baby.

Free maternity services

Most women in New Zealand can choose maternity services that are free. Find out if you can get free maternity care.

Check the Ministry of Health website to find out if you can get free maternity care

Who to choose

Most women choose a midwife but you may wish to choose a specialist doctor (an obstetrician). Note that if you choose a specialist doctor you will have to pay for your maternity care. In some places a general practitioner (a GP) who has been specially trained to care for pregnant women may be available.

How to choose

You can visit the 'Find Your Midwife' website or talk to your doctor or nurse about finding a midwife in your area.

Visit the 'Find Your Midwife' website

Your midwife or specialist doctor will support you from when you first see them until your baby is around 6 weeks old. It's important that you choose someone you feel comfortable with.

See the Ministry of Health's website for information about choosing a midwife or specialist doctor

Remember that you can change the person who is looking after you at any time. But, many women find that it's important to have the same person throughout pregnancy, labour and birth, and after baby is born.

Your maternity care

The midwife or specialist doctor you choose to care for you is your care provider. They are responsible for your care throughout your pregnancy, labour and birth. They will also care for you and your baby until your baby is 6 weeks old. They will give you the information you need to make decisions around your pregnancy and birth.

Your care provider (or their backup) will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for urgent care. If you have an urgent concern, contact your care provider immediately, whatever the time of day. For non-urgent queries, take your questions to your planned visits with your midwife or specialist doctor, or contact them during their normal working hours.

What can you expect from your midwife or specialist doctor?

You should expect your midwife or specialist doctor to:

  • develop a plan with you for your care, including your labour and birth
  • talk to you about staying healthy during the pregnancy
  • be with you during your labour and birth (or, in the case of a doctor, arrange for midwifery care during labour)
  • refer you or your baby to specialist support if needed
  • visit you (or arrange for you to be visited) at the hospital and in your home at least 7 times after your baby is born
  • refer you to your chosen Well Child Tamariki Ora provider after the birth of your baby
  • help you to enrol your baby at a general practice for doctor and practice nurse services

Your midwife or specialist doctor will see you throughout your pregnancy. They will feel your tummy to check baby's growth, position and heartbeat, and take your blood pressure and test your wee/mimi.

They will also offer screening tests and scans to check that both you and your baby are healthy and well. If you decide to have these tests and scans, your midwife or specialist doctor will arrange them for you and explain your results.

Your midwife or specialist doctor will explain how often you will need to be seen during your pregnancy. These visits may be able to take place in your home, at a clinic, on the marae or in a hospital.

Your choices during pregnancy

For some women pregnancy can be a difficult time. You may need someone to talk to or you may want some specific support. Your midwife or your doctor or nurse will be able to talk to you about any issues you face.

Visit Abortion Services in New Zealand, ring 0800 ABORTION (0800 226 784) or talk to your doctor or nurse if you want to know more about termination (abortion).

Clinical trials during pregnancy and for your newborn baby

Clinical trials help improve the care provided in pregnancy and for newborn babies. There are many of them actively recruiting pregnant women and babies across New Zealand. During your pregnancy or shortly after your baby is born, you, or your baby, may be invited to take part in a clinical trial.

What are the aims of clinical trials?

A clinical trial recruits people to test new or existing 'interventions' designed to help improve human health. Interventions can include drugs, devices, vaccines, surgery, behavioural therapies, diagnostic tests, or preventive care changes. Clinical trials facilitate continual improvements in the care provided to mothers and babies by identifying what practice improves health and what practice causes harm or has no effect. They also reduce variation in practice.

What are the benefits of clinical trials?

Clinical trials including New Zealand mothers and babies help midwives, nurses, and doctors provide better and more consistent care for all. There is also evidence that individuals benefit from participating in clinical trials. For participating mums and babies this may include receiving a new treatment, extra monitoring and testing, attentive research staff, and the reward of knowing you are contributing towards the better health of New Zealand mums and babies in the future.

More information about clinical trials

The ON TRACK Network is the national clinical trials network that supports clinical trials around the country. The Network has set up a forum for women and whānau to learn more and talk about clinical trials.

See the ON TRACK Network's women and whānau page for further information


Reproduced from Maternity care at the Ministry of Health website.

This page last reviewed 15 June 2021.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it