26 Jun 2018 | Perinatal & Maternal Mortality Review Committee
Maternal death rates have significantly reduced for the first time since 2006, a report by the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC) says.
The PMMRC reviews deaths of mothers and babies in New Zealand and advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce these deaths.
The PMMRC began reviewing maternal deaths in 2006. Its 12th report, published today, shows that from 2006 to 2008 there was approximately one maternal death for every 5,500 births. From 2014 to 2016 this dropped to approximately one maternal death for every 10,600 births.
However, the neonatal death rate has not fallen in the past ten years, unlike in comparable countries such as the UK and Australia.
PMMRC Chair Dr Sue Belgrave says each death is a tragedy for the family and whānau involved, and more must be done to reduce these deaths in New Zealand.
‘While a significant ongoing decline in maternal deaths is positive, the number of babies dying in the first four weeks of life has not reduced and is of great concern,’ says Dr Belgrave.
‘We haven’t got all the answers, but we know the majority of neonatal deaths are in very preterm babies – 20-24 weeks’ gestation – who are born alive but then die. We are trying to understand what we can do in New Zealand to prevent these early preterm births and deaths.’
Recommendations in the report focus on preventing preterm birth, providing optimal care and reducing ethnic inequity. These include the following.
Dr Belgrave says the report has further highlighted inequity in neonatal deaths.
‘Māori, Pacific and Indian women, and women under the age of 20, have a significantly higher risk of their baby dying from prematurity. This is something we need to explore further, and the report’s findings give us a good indication of where to focus our efforts.’
Key findings from the report:
‘Addressing these issues will not be easy,’ says Dr Belgrave. ‘It will require the coordinated efforts of government, health providers, iwi and communities. We need to work together to make sure every mother and baby receives the same level of care.’