Best pregnancy care in the country

Antenatal fan, Tammy Hall and Ulla.

Antenatal fan, Tammy Hall and Ulla.

Pregnant women in the Mountains are receiving some of the best care in the country, according to a government report released last week.

The Nepean-Blue Mountains Medicare Local (NBMML) catchment area topped the rankings for antenatal care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and rated second for non-Indigenous women.

The report, Healthy Communities: Child and Maternal Health 2009-2012, highlights how children's health outcomes can vary widely depending on where they live.

It found that 80.5 per cent of pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the Mountains area received at least one antenatal visit in the first trimester, the best performance of 61 Medicare Local catchments across Australia.

Early antenatal visits are important for monitoring the health of mothers and babies, for early detection of any complications and are strongly associated with good child health outcomes.

The percentage of non-indigenous women in the Mountains area who had at least one antenatal visit was 85.5 per cent, which was second in the rankings and on par with Sydney's more affluent North Shore and Northern Beaches.

First-time mother Tammy Hall, from Wentworth Falls, said the antenatal services in the Mountains had been invaluable for her.

"We had a caseload midwife and did the four-week course at the hospital where they prepare you for the birth," she said. "It was really useful."

She was pleased, too, to have the same midwife every time she went to the hospital.

"It was also really nice to form some friendships with other women who are having their first babies. We go to mums groups and all the babies are at the same stage."

Chairman of the NBMML board, Dr Shiva Prakash, said the report showed this area is punching above its weight in antenatal care.

He credited the Mountains-based Aboriginal Healthy for Life program and its partners with much of the success. "Healthy for Life is a program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people run by their own people and is widely recognised as a blueprint for closing the gap between outcomes of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians," said Dr Prakash.

"The excellent results are also a direct result of the antenatal share care arrangements that have been in place across the area for many years. It is a testament to the long-standing commitment of GPs in the area and the close and effective working relationship between local doctors, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, the Blue Mountains and Penrith Women's Health Centres and the Aboriginal Coalition leading the Healthy for Life program."

"The report also highlighted how important locally relevant strategies are to improving better health," Dr Prakash said.

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