Health authorities lost track of complaints about controversial midwife

Auckland mum Jenni Hunter complained about antenatal teacher Adith Stoneman 10 years ago.
Auckland mum Jenni Hunter complained about antenatal teacher Adith Stoneman 10 years ago. Photo: Lawrence Smith/Fairfax News

New Zealand hospital bosses were warned about a childbirth educator's controversial and dangerous teachings 10 years ago, but it appears nothing was done.

Antenatal teacher Adith Stoneman is being investigated after it was revealed she was teaching "old wives tales" to expectant mums, including advising women to use castor oil for induction, at publicly-funded classes at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland.

It has now emerged other parents were alarmed by her non-scientific approach.

Childbirth educator Adith Stoneman is being investigated for handing out unapproved advice.
Childbirth educator Adith Stoneman is being investigated for handing out unapproved advice. Photo: Supplied

Auckland mother Jenni Hunter said she complained in 2006 after Stoneman told her class that immunisations were linked to autism and Vitamin K caused cancer in children.

"I would assume for many of the women this was their only source of information and she was pedalling old wives tales and things that were out-dated and incorrect."

Scientific evidence shows vitamin K and immunisations are a safe way to prevent life-threatening diseases in babies and children.

Women were also made to feel like they had potentially harmed their baby if they required medical intervention during childbirth, she said.

Hunter said: "I felt like she was going to say at anytime 'if you have any form of intervention you have failed as a woman and a mother'.

"If someone listened to her uncritically and had a caesarean, you would be left feeling overwhelmed, shamed and disappointed."


Hunter met with three hospital staff at the time of her complaint and shared notes taken during the lessons, but said she never heard back.

The Waitemata District Health Board confirmed Hunter's complaint was taken very seriously, however, there are no records of what the outcome was.

Hunter has joined calls for an overhaul of the way childbirth lessons are run.

"I want to know that all antenatal classes are checked so they provide balanced, evidence-based, practical information."

Auckland mother Shabnam Dastgheib said she dropped out of Stoneman's class after one lesson because it was opinion rather than evidence based.

Six other parents also reported on social media they had serious concerns about Stoneman's teachings, at least one of which dropped out of her class.

However, two parents said Stoneman's classes helped prepare them for labour and parenthood. 

Waitemata DHB could not comment on whether Stoneman was undergoing disciplinary action or still teaching childbirth classes.

Cath Cronin, Waitemata DHB hospital services director, said Stoneman developed her own materials which the DHB considered "inappropriate and non-evidence based".

Hospital investigators have contact 77 women who attended her antennal classes, of which 10 people were unhappy with the lessons.

Antenatal classes at the hospital were now being supervised and more rigorous auditing processes have been put in place, Cronin said.

A new Auckland-wide antenatal curriculum was in the process of being rolled out.

Yesterday, Stoneman refused to comment.

A man who answered the door at her Auckland home said she had been advised against talking to media while the investigation was underway.

"I would like nothing more than the true story to be told."

 - Sunday Star Times