The Baby Business

The Baby Business – What’s happened to maternity care in New Zealand? By Dr Lynda Exton looks at the history of birthing care and the reforms of 1990 and the results of these on New Zealand mothers and babies. At the time of writing, the author had been a doctor for 25 years and was a mother of two.

While this book is not a novel and not on my reading list, I stumbled across it in the library reject sale pile, figuring it would be relevant to inserting truth aspects to the birthing stories I am writing about. The Baby Business was released to some controversy amid claims that our current maternity system puts the lives of mothers and babies at risk. The book examines the history, politics and results of birthing experiences in New Zealand, often from a medical point of view and full of stated facts and numbers. Exton concludes with a number of recommendations.

The strengths of this book is the factual basis. This is not a sensationalist writing clutching at numbers, but an experienced GP able to produce the data to back up her stance. She looks at the history of births and how these benefitted or harmed the mother and child and then studies the results of births in the current system overseen by midwives. It is clear that the author is strongly against the current midwife-led system and perhaps the weakness of this book is that there is no balance offered from midwives on what they perceive to be working or not.

There are large excerpts from the works of others to support her stance and the author also examines bodies of data and puts into easy-to-read format. Exton also includes information about pioneering women (and men) who have been instrumental in changes to the system or in ensuring safe outcomes for mother and child, and assess the factors driving these changes including the motivations from money, politics, doctors and midwives.

I found this book to be relevant to my work in understand the historical changes of childbirth in New Zealand, and in particular, the political influence on the birth outcomes. There are sections on natural birth, the inclusion or exclusion (where relevant) of Maori practices and input, and the different organisations in NZ and their inputs into the system.

“Women in need deserve to be cared for with humanity and compassion. On many occasions during the years of debate and change in our maternity system, obstetricians have been described as uncaring and interventionist.”

It was a fascinating read to better understand maternity care in New Zealand. In particular I really enjoyed the empowering read of facts and the key changes in the history of maternity car and the impacts on mothers and babies.


Exton, L DR. (2008). The Baby Business. Craig Potten Publishing: Nelson (260).download.jpg


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.