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Maternal mortality trends in Australia

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Maternal death is low and decreasing in Australia, but continuing surveillance is important

The death of a mother or a baby has significant short and long term impacts for the surviving family members and for the community and health workers who cared for them. The World Health Organization estimates that 303 000 women died in pregnancy and childbirth in 2015, with 99% of these deaths occurring in low income countries.1

In Australia, a series of reports regarding maternal deaths has been published over the past five decades; the first in the series covered the 1964–1966 triennium.2 These reports examine the deaths that occurred during pregnancy or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy. They are compilations of data sourced from multidisciplinary state maternal mortality review committees that undertake detailed reviews of each case.

The incidence of maternal death is expressed as a maternal mortality ratio (MMR). The MMR is the number of deaths due to complications of the pregnancy (direct deaths) or aggravation of existing disease processes by the pregnancy (indirect deaths) per 100 000 women giving birth. The calculation does not include deaths from unrelated causes that occur in pregnancy or the puerperium (incidental deaths) and deaths that occur more than 42 days after the end of a pregnancy.

The MMR in Australia is…