Indigenous maternal health and the cost of childbirth are on the agenda for the 2016 International Normal Labour and Birth Conference.
Michelle Rimmer

10 Oct 2016 - 4:27 PM  UPDATED 10 Oct 2016 - 4:51 PM

Research has found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have three times the maternal death rate compared to other Australians.

They also experience double the number of infant deaths during childbirth.

Indigenous maternal care is a pressing issue and a major topic of discussion at the 11th International Normal Labour and Birth Conference.

More than 500 Delegates from 20 countries are gathering in Sydney this week to discuss the latest research on how to best support women in childbirth.

The conference is also looking at the rising cost of giving birth in Australia. 

According to research published in the Lancet, Australia is second only to the US as the most expensive country to give birth.

Conference chairperson Professor Hannah Dahlen, from Western Sydney University, says medical intervention is to blame for the high price tag.  

"Medical interventions during birth are not only expensive -caesareans cost twice as much as vaginal births- they have significant health impacts on women and babies, leading to longer hospital stays, breastfeeding difficulties, psychological trauma and parenting difficulties," Professor Dahlen says.

Research suggests one in three Australian women give birth by caesarean section.

Professor Dahlen says the current rate of caesareans is too high.

"Many interventions during labour are unnecessary, and raise questions around a women's ability to provide informed consent during labour. Many women giving birth today are being traumatised by the experience, and this is a devastating start to parenting."

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The conference brings together scientists, midwives, doctors, lawyers and consumers to discuss the best way to support women to have a normal labour and birth.

It’s the first time the event is being held in the Southern hemisphere.

"With Australia now leading the world for all the wrong reasons, it is time to examine the scientific evidence and deliver care that improves outcomes that are not only physically safe, but emotionally safe," Professor Dahlen says.

The three-day convention features local and international guest speakers from a variety of disciplines.

The conference is also raising money for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to become midwives and provide culturally sensitive maternity care through the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund.

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