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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern expecting a baby

© AFP | New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she is pregnant

WELLINGTON (AFP) - 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday she is expecting her first baby in June, making her the country's first leader to give birth while in office.

The 37-year-old, who took office in October, said the pregnancy was "unexpected but exciting" for her and partner Clarke Gayford.

"We're both really happy. We wanted a family but weren't sure it would happen for us," she said in a statement.

The charismatic leader enjoyed a meteoric rise last year, winning office just months after taking the helm of the centre-left Labour Party.

"We thought 2017 was a big year!" she tweeted.

"This year we'll join the many parents who wear two hats. I'll be PM and a mum while Clarke will be 'first man of fishing' and stay at home dad."

Ardern said she would take six weeks off after the birth of her child, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters taking over the reins of office.

She said she would be "contactable and available" during the period and would resume all leadership duties when it was over.

Ardern said she and Gayford had previously had doubts they could conceive.

"Clarke and I have always been clear we wanted to be parents but had been told we would need help for that to happen," she said.

"That's made this news a fantastic surprise."

Ardern's plans for a family sparked a sexism row during the election when a television host quizzed her on the issue, saying voters had a right to know before they cast their ballots.

She rejected the line of questioning as "unacceptable", saying pregnancy and child rearing should not hinder women's opportunities in the workplace.

"It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities," she said.

Ardern did not reveal the sex of the baby.

© 2018 AFP