The Accident Compensation (Maternal Birth Injury and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2022 took effect on 1 October 2022. It is predicted that it will provide much needed support for thousands of birthing parents, in light of data estimating that 80% of birthing parents experience some sort of injury in childbirth. It follows many years of petition by different groups as well as heightened media interest and publication of traumatic birthing stories.
The Act now enables birthing parents who suffer a birthing injury to be covered by ACC for both mental and physical injuries caused by the injury.
The Act does this by extending the definition of ‘accident’ to include “a force or resistance internal to the human body at any time from the onset of labour to the completion of delivery”. This means that the types of birthing injuries covered are wide ranging, including those such as prolapses, tears and dislocations. These will be reviewed in the future with a view to determining whether they are including (or excluding) the right types of injuries.
The Act is also more inclusive in that it covers not just mothers but all birthing parents. This is because, while a majority of those impacted will be wāhine, there are also non-binary, transgender, takatāpui and other gender diverse people that give birth.
Injuries to babies themselves are not in the scope of this specific amendment, although treatment cover still remains available to them. Episiotomies are also not included (but may be covered as a treatment injury under other parts of the Act).
Another important aspect of the Act relates to the types of health professionals that are able to lodge claims.
Midwives can lodge claims for birthing parents who experience a birthing injury in their care, so long as it is within their scope of practice. This is a recognition of their professional expertise and their critical involvement during childbirth. However, if they suspect that a birthing parent has sustained an injury outside their scope of practice, they must refer them to their general practitioner, nurse, or other specialist to make a claim.
Physiotherapists who provide birthing injury services under ACC’s ‘Allied Health’ contract are also able to lodge claims, so long as they show that they have an ongoing interest in pelvic health.
If you have any questions about how this may impact you, whether as a health professional or in general, please reach out to one of our experienced health law team.