A comparison of the Woman-centred care: strategic directions for Australian maternity services (2019) national strategy with other international maternity plans



      In 2019 the Australian government released a guiding document for maternity care: Woman-centred care strategic directions for Australian maternity services (WCC Strategy), with mixed responses from providers and consumers. The aims of this paper were to: examine reasons behind reported dissatisfaction, and compare the WCC Strategy against similar international strategies/plans. The four guiding values in the WCC strategy: safety, respect, choice, and access were used to facilitate comparisons and provide recommendations to governments/health services enacting the plan.


      Maternity plans published in English from comparable high-income countries were reviewed.


      Eight maternity strategies/plans from 2011 to 2021 were included. There is an admirable focus in the WCC Strategy on respectful care, postnatal care, and culturally appropriate maternity models. Significant gaps in support for continuity of midwifery care and place of birth options were notable, despite robust evidence supporting both. In addition, clarity around women’s right to make decisions about their care was lacking or contradictory in the majority of the strategies/plans. Addressing hierarchical, structure-based obstacles to regulation, policy, planning, service delivery models and funding mechanisms may be necessary to overcome concerns and barriers to implementation. We observed that countries where midwifery is more strongly embedded and autonomous, have guidelines recommending greater contributions from midwives.


      Maternity strategy/plans should be based on the best available evidence, with consistent and complementary recommendations. Within this framework, priority should be given to women’s preferences and choices, rather than the interests of organisations and individuals.


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