Hawke’s Bay primary birthing centre turns five

Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s primary birthing centre, Waioha, turns five this Sunday (4 July) and with it, knowledge the first babies born at the birthing centre will be getting ready to start school.

Hawke’s Bay DHB Director of Midwifery Jules Arthur says there has been many happy tears shed during Waioha’s first five years as parents welcome their babies into the world.

Waioha was the–first primary birthing centre of its kind in New Zealand to offer a facility for normal, low-risk births located next door to the DHB’s more specialist birthing centre, Ata Rangi.

“The DHB’s vision for Waioha was based on community feedback from women and whānau wanting a safe low-risk birthing unit facility, but with peace of mind intensive medical help nearby if needed,” said Jules.

“We managed to bring this vision to life by designing and building Waioha which provides relaxing spaces, birthing pools, plus enough room for support people to stay with their whānau. It is a wonderful addition to our maternity services to support the right place of birth, for the right women, at the right time for the best outcome.

 “Feedback from our mama and whānau echoes the intent of a relaxing, peaceful place that is family friendly to welcoming our newborn babies.”

Since opening its doors, more than 2300 babies have been born at Waioha and while all births are special, reminiscing with Waioha’s first mother and baby has been special in lead-up to centre’s fifth birthday celebrations.

Serena Braam (pictured) was the first person to give birth at Waioha and shared fond memories of her experience at the new birthing centre. 

“When we arrived at Waioha there was a buzz of excitement in the air – the first baby,” she said.

“The unit was opened at lunchtime that day so everything was brand new. It was a space where we had the freedoms of home birth but still the medical treatment there if need be.

“Keanu was born at 9:16pm weighing 8lb4oz. I went on to have two more children at Waioha in 2017 and 2019 delivered by my amazing midwife Kerri Smith who delivered four of my five children.”

Ms Arthur says Waioha also proved to be the perfect facility to adapt to protect patients, whānau and babies during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown.

“Waioha was temporarily closed to be used as an isolation ward for maternity patients as part of the DHB’s COVID-19 response.

“We were very fortunate to have Waioha to be able to adapt and utilise in this way to protect our mothers, babies and whānau, should we have needed to.

 “Following lockdown, the centre returned to its normal function as a primary birthing unit.”

Hawke’s Bay DHB maternity colleagues, community midwives and new mums will gather at Waioha on Sunday to mark the fifth birthday milestone and celebrate its success.


The meaning behind the name Waioha

Relating to Wairua which is the soul/spirit of someone.

Waioha is the greatest gift in all creation, breathing, new life. It is related to the sky father Ranginui and his wife Papatūānuku earth mother, where all living things originate from.
Waioha is creating and shaping our future by bringing forth new life into this world.

He momo wai te toto, te hinu, te miraka, me te roimata” Relating to water, blood, oil, milk & tears.

Wa – time only the child dictates when it is coming, is seen
Wai – water protects the child living in the womb
Wai – can be seen, heard, felt and water cleanses
Ai – to lie with the female, can be felt, touched, and heard
I – to join
O – belonging
Oha – a gift, greeting, felt and heard
Ha – to breathe, to hear, to feel, to touch, to smell and to taste.


Waioha birthing stats

4 July 2016 to 30 June 2021

  • 2388 babies born
  • 902 water births
  • 1188 girls
  • 1200 boys
  • Smallest 2130g
  • Largest 5160g

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