Maternity early warning system logoWe have developed a national maternal early warning system (MEWS) to help clinicians identify when a pregnant or recently pregnant woman’s condition starts to get worse, so they can respond quickly.

At a sector-wide workshop in December 2017, we agreed the system would consist of a standardised maternity vital signs chart and an escalation pathway that can be adapted for local needs. Testing of the new system took place during 2018 at Auckland, Nelson Marlborough and Northland DHB sites. The test sites were supported by the Commission’s national programme team, which is clinician-led and includes a maternity specialist, an obstetrician/gynaecologist and an anaesthetist.

The maternity vital signs chart is based on the existing national adult vital signs chart, which the Commission has introduced to hospitals as part of its patient deterioration programme. It uses eight vital sign parameters to calculate a maternal early warning score. When the score is reached, it triggers a response based on the local escalation pathway, so the appropriate actions can be taken to manage the woman’s condition.

Following an evaluation by the programme team, the MMWG has approved the national rollout of MEWS during 2019−20. A full compendium of tools and guidance is available to aid implementation in New Zealand hospitals.

For more information, contact the national programme team by emailing

Last updated 25/11/2019