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Fourth Perinatal And Maternal Mortality Report Released

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC), a ministerial committee responsible for reviewing maternal and perinatal deaths (babies born between 20 weeks gestation and 28 days of age), announced the release of their fourth report to the Minister of Health today. This report presents one measure of the quality and safety of New Zealand's maternity services.

The aim of the committee is to identify areas in maternity and newborn care where improvements could be made. This report provides an accurate estimate of the absolute numbers and rates of perinatal and maternal deaths in New Zealand for 2008.

"This is our second report to present a full 12 months of perinatal and maternal data," says Professor Cindy Farquhar, chair of the committee and professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland.

The maternal mortality rate in 2008 was 13.7 per 100,000 maternities, and the perinatal mortality rate for the same year was 10.00 per 1000 total births. These rates are similar to both Australia and the United Kingdom. The majority of district health boards are reported to be within the national perinatal mortality rate," says Professor Farquhar.

"I am pleased to report that two new initiatives for reporting on morbidity started at the beginning of this year. The first is the establishment of a Neonatal Encephalopathy* Working Group (NEWG) and the second is a collaborative project lead by the Australasian Maternity Outcomes Surveillance System (AMOSS) and is looking at information on women who suffer major morbidity from a range of rare conditions. The focus with both these groups is to identify potentially avoidable factors that will improve outcomes for mothers and babies in the future.

"Communication continues to be central to ensuring cooperation and collaboration in reporting perinatal mortality. In November 2009 we held a national one day workshop 'Making Pregnancy Safer' which was open to all clinicians, policy makers and consumers. We plan to hold a similar workshop every year - next month we're hosting a 'Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies' workshop in Christchurch. More information is available at

"The loss of mothers and their babies has an unfathomable impact on families and communities," says Dr Vicki Culling, consumer representative on the committee and chairperson of Sands, a national organisation that supports parents and families following the death of a baby. "PMMRC surveyed DHBs last year to see what services they offer bereaved parents, family and whanau following a loss. While there are a range of services available, there is wide regional variation, and I hope that the PMMRC's work, and that of the regional coordinators based at each DHB will lead to further improvements in services and information for people affected by the death of mothers and their babies. This report helps ensure that we can learn from these tragedies and identify where maternal and neonatal services may be improved", says Dr Culling.

"It is timely that the report be released on this day which marks International Baby Loss Awareness Day", says Dr Culling. Many parents and families around New Zealand will light a candle in memory of a precious baby or child who has died. They will burn the candle for one hour and in doing so, New Zealanders will lead the international Global Wave of Light that will continuously burn around the world for 24 hours honouring babies and infants that have died.

Some of the nine recommendations contained within this comprehensive report include research into the increased number of deaths of babies born to Pacific and Maori women; and women aged under 20 and over 40, and women who live in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation. Screening pregnant women for mental health history is also recommended for clinicians and lead maternity carers, in an attempt to identify women at an increased risk of mental illness during pregnancy. The report also recommends further analysis of data collected in 2009 to look at potentially avoidable factors leading to stillbirth.

The full report is available at

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