With the baby bonus set to drop by $2000 in mid-2013, there are fears that mums will pressure their doctors for an early delivery to collect the higher payout.
The federal government’s announcement that it would drop the baby bonus by $2000 in the new financial year has led Families Minister Jenny Macklin to warn doctors against rescheduling elective caesareans or inducing labour to allow families to beat the deadline.
Ms Macklin contacted the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, urging doctors to educate women about the range of government entitlements available as well as counselling them about the risks of premature delivery, according to documents obtained by The Sunday Telegraph
From July 1, 2013, the baby bonus will be reduced from $5000 to $3000 for second and subsequent babies as part of wider government spending cuts.
Following the announcement by Treasurer Wayne Swan, Ms Macklin said that the adjustment takes into account that families tend to buy and keep big-ticket baby essentials beyond the first child.
“Expensive items such as the cot, pram, change table and baby capsule are generally reused for younger siblings,” she said.
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With the average pregnancy lasting 40 weeks, women who conceived between mid-September and mid-October are among those who are potentially affected by changes to the baby bonus payments. Working women, however, will still have access to the $10,000 paid maternity leave scheme.
"I am conscious of the pressure that may be placed on obstetricians and other medical staff to reschedule elective procedures in the lead-up to the start date for the reduced rate of baby bonus," Ms Macklin wrote in her submission to the College of Obstetricians.
"I know that the government and your members share the concern that the health of mothers and babies remain the paramount consideration in scheduling such procedures.
Although in many instances, a C-section is medically necessary for the heath of the baby or the mother, those delivered preterm by caesarean have been found to have a higher instance of breathing difficulties.
While experts have found no correlation between the introduction of the baby bonus and an increase in fertility rates, some economic commentators have tracked significant birthing behavioural changes as a result.
"There was strong evidence that [a baby bonus increase] impacted behaviour. And the evidence was all about planned birth timing, that is caesars and inductions, which comprise a significant share of all births," economist blogger and author of Parentonomics
, Joshua Gans, told The Sunday Telegraph
"In 2004, 2006 and 2008 we were seeing increases in the baby bonus so there was an incentive to delay births until after July 1 of those years.
"But $2000 is $2000 and so I suspect some people...will end up having conversations with their doctors as to whether they can have their babies on June 30 rather than July 1.”
Would you adjust your birth or conception plans as a result of the new baby bonus changes? Please leave your comment below.