Dianne Zalitis is a midwife and Clinical Lead for the national Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service available through Healthdirect Australia. Dianne has spent the majority of her career in rural and regional NSW in various roles, but always focusing on pregnancy care and birthing services.
Being a country girl, Dianne returned to rural practice after training in nursing and midwifery in Sydney and Wollongong. Her early years as a midwife were spent in Cowra and then Wagga Wagga's maternity unit and pregnancy care centre. From there Dianne became the midwifery consultant with the Greater Murray Area Health Service (as it was called then), supporting the maternity units across the Riverina.
‘Things changed when my husband's work required us to move to the city – Wagga Wagga to Waterloo! I found work at the Prince of Wales private delivery suite. Like all good country women, I found a way to thrive.
‘About nine years ago I was approached to join the team delivering the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline, to provide clinical oversight and ensure women, families and their needs remain at the centre of the model of care.
‘As the Clinical Lead all my experience and knowledge, accumulated and imparted through a lifetime of working with real people, has contributed to the ongoing service evolution. My depth of understanding of the needs of country women stem from my life in those communities.’
Dianne is passionate about women’s health and has witnessed how the health system has changed over her career.
‘I can remember during my training in the early ‘80s when, after birth, women stayed in the hospital for around a week and all babies were kept in the nursery and brought for feeding every four hours. We have come a long way since then, and now babies are with their mums the whole time and don’t spend as long in hospital. Mum and baby are treated as a unit together and their knowledge and instincts are trusted.
‘Another big change that gives me real satisfaction is that women and their families have more choice in how and where to give birth. It’s a much more women-centred process now, tailored to suit what they want and how they feel most comfortable.’
Dianne says choice is a very important part of experiencing pregnancy and birthing and, to know what options are available, you really need to understand what's likely, and what could happen to you and your baby.
‘It’s true that choices about where and how to deliver a baby are very dependent on where you live and the services available, but you can always find someone to talk to for information.
‘That makes services like Pregnancy, Birth and Baby important – it’s a point of access for women and families during pregnancy. Particularly now when their usual social support channels are limited, there is a child maternal health nurse at the end of a phone and a practical website to help them navigate through this part of their life journey.’
Expecting parents are also seeking a higher level of reassurance about bringing their baby into the world.
‘Due to COVID-19, we are seeing a change in the type of things expectant parents are calling about – they need that voice at end of a phone for reassurance, to help them through the ongoing sense of isolation and uncertainty in what the future holds.
‘That demonstrates why I’ve stayed with Pregnancy, Birth and Baby so long. It’s a service that evolves as required, offering friendly and informed advice so people can take the next right step for their personal situation.
‘Ultimately my job is to make sure women and their families have the information to do what’s right for them, and that makes me happy and satisfied.’