COVID-19: Maternity

Information for the maternity services sector

Last updated: 4 October 2021

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Health workers can download the Āwhina app to stay up-to-date on the latest information relevant to COVID-19 and the health and disability sector.

Information for community-based midwives

Guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in home and community settings, and on protecting both pregnant and postnatal women, and their community-based Lead Maternity Carer midwives at different Alert Levels.

At Alert Level 1

At Alert Level 2

At Alert Levels 3 and 4

Supporting tables

This guidance is supported by the following table.

Table 1: Advice for community-based midwives caring for women who are probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases, or meet the Clinical and Higher Index of Suspicion (HIS) criteria

Occupational health guidance for vulnerable community-based self-employed midwives

Self-employed midwives claiming off the Section 88 Notice who fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category, can use this 20 DHB developed occupational health advice to determine the areas in which it is safe for them to work. 

Information for radiologists on community-based maternity ultrasounds at different Alert Levels

Guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in community settings and protecting both pregnant women and their community-based sonographers, radiologists and ancillary staff at different Alert Levels.

Advice for the use of Entonox in labour

Guidance to provide advice on the use of Nitrous oxide/Entonox for labour analgesia during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of reducing the spread of COVID-19 from person to person in New Zealand. 

Recommendations for health professionals and whānau on handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID confirmed or probable women

‘Hara mai e tama, puritia te aka matua o te whenua’ – Come forth our child, we are bound by deep roots in this land/placenta.

The Ministry of Health acknowledges the rights of tangata whenua and encourages all health professionals to adhere to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Ministry of Health encourages health professionals to provide culturally safe care of the whenua/placenta along with evidence based best practice.

The cultural guidelines for Māori birthing customs can be found in the Turanga Kaupapa developed by Nga Maia o Aotearoa. The professional body of midwifery has adopted the Turanga Kaupapa in recognition of their obligations to Māori as tangata whenua and should be embedded throughout maternity care. (See New Zealand College of Midwives - Standards of Practice.)

This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and the transmission of other viral respiratory infections. The Ministry of Health will update this interim guidance as needed, as additional information becomes available.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide advice on the handling of the whenua/placenta for COVID-19 confirmed or probable women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical judgement and discussions with whānau should take place to support decision making. 

The likelihood of COVID-19 being transmitted from a whenua/placenta to whānau is remote but cannot be ruled out completely. 

If whānau are planning on keeping their whenua/placenta, the following is recommended: 

  • Thorough hand hygiene should be practiced at any time the whenua/placenta is being handled. 
  • Whenua/placenta to be placed into an ipu/container/leakproof bag. Consider biodegradable non-permeable bags to alleviate double handling of the whenua. 
  • After the whenua/placenta is placed in the first ipu/container/bag it should then be placed in a clean non-permeable bag while wearing clean gloves.  
  • Wash hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Take special care not to touch your face throughout the handling of the container and/or whenua/placenta. 
  • Whenua to be taken from the place of birth as soon as possible following the birth by someone in the same household as the birthing woman. 
  • During Alert Level 2, 3 and 4 restrictions are in place regarding non-essential travel, therefore the whenua may need to be stored until such a time that the restrictions are lifted and it can be taken to its final destination.
  • Consider burying the whenua/placenta in a large planter pot to be transplanted once travel restrictions are lifted.
  • If your whenua/placenta is in a biodegradable ipu or bag it can be buried in that. If it is in a non-biodegradable container it is recommended to remove it from the container prior to burial. Ensure you practice hand hygiene after any handling of the whenua/placenta or ipu/container/bag. See link above for guidance. 
  • If the whenua/placenta is not buried in the container/bag then these must be disposed of immediately in a double plastic/bio-degradable bag. Wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and thoroughly dry them. Take special care not to touch your face throughout the handling of the container and/or whenua/placenta.
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