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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2018

5 - Pregnancy, paternity and parenting in rural communities


Learning objectives

On completion of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • identify the unique needs of rural families in accessing health care
  • describe normal pregnancy care and recognise the importance of involving fathers in pregnancy and parenting
  • discuss child and family health, including immunisation targets
  • recognise vulnerable groups and specific care needs
  • identify the needs of children exposed to life-limiting illnesses.
  • Key words

  • Pregnancy care, paternal role, immunisation, life-limiting illness, vulnerable groups
  • Chapter overview

    This chapter provides a snapshot of rural health care from the perspective of young families. It captures pregnancy care models, involvement of fathers in birthing and caring roles, the promotion of health and wellbeing in children, identification of vulnerable groups, and the support of children with life-limiting illnesses.


    Healthcare access and equity continue to be significant issues for rural Australians, particularly for women and their young families. The centralisation of services to regional, urban and metropolitan areas has led to enforced travel to access health care or, alternatively, reliance on intermittent outreach services to outlying communities. Thus, the health and wellbeing of this rural cohort require special consideration to ensure optimum health outcomes. Health service and professional regulatory authority reforms highlighted in previous chapters pose issues for rural nurses who are also midwives and for those who hold midwifery-only qualifications; these are further discussed in this chapter.


    In 2009, the Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Rosemary Bryant, led a review of maternity services on behalf of the Federal Government. Subsequently, Improving Maternity Services in Australia: The Report of the Maternity Services Review was released following extensive consultation (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009). All contributors acknowledged that ‘safe, high-quality and accessible cared based on informed choice must be the goal’ (p. iii), with these factors being central to future policy development and implementation.