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Birth of new era for retired obstetrician

Marlborough gynaecologist and obstetrician Helen Crampton has been able to get back into old passions, like playing the flute, since retiring. Photo: Kat Duggan.

After 30 years of helping being new life into the world, one of Marlborough’s most well-known obstetricians has hung up her stethoscope for good.

Dr Helen Crampton has been a fixture at Wairau Hospital, spending days, nights, weekends, weekdays and holidays delivering babies.

After officially retiring in September, the Blenheim-based doctor has ditched the middle of the night wake-up calls in favour of running a bed and breakfast.

“The demands of being called out urgently at night and continuing the next day; I was certainly finding increasingly challenging; it wasn’t a problem when I was young,” she says.

“Once you hit your 60s, being on call becomes particularly challenging.”

Working in a small town for so long also meant delivering two generations of one family became inevitable.

“I have delivered babies of the babies … You always enjoy when someone comes in and says ‘mum said you delivered me’,” Helen says.

While highly rewarding, Helen says her career has not been without stressful moments, and she is relieved to be free of the pressure that comes with it.

Helen says she remembers many of the mothers and babies she has worked with.

“You always remember the ones that cause you more worry; there are mums you never forget,” Helen says.

“A highlight would be being there at the moment of delivery for a couple who had struggled with infertility … being there and sharing their joy at that special moment, that was always a very special time.”

Initially setting out to become a surgeon, Helen was working at the Emergency Department at Wellington Hospital when she encountered a difficult obstetrics case.

“I decided [then] to do a diploma in obstetrics and I fell in love with it from there,” she says.

“It was a male dominated career and I was told point blank that it was far too hard for a woman to do … now here I am.”

Helen met husband John on a tramping trip in the Nelson Lakes, and later made the move to Marlborough, beginning her career at Wairau Hospital in 1988.

With John’s help, Helen balanced being on call, working late nights and weekends with being a mother.

The pair have now set up a B&B in their Blenheim home and have already met some wonderful people since opening for bookings.

“I’m a people person and I still want to make a difference in other people’s lives, and that’s enabling me to do that,” Helen says.

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