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Rates of mother and infant mortality released

    19 November 2009

Media Release

Rates of mother and infant mortality in New Zealand released

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

“This report is the first of its kind to be published in New Zealand as it presents a full 12 months of perinatal and maternal data for the year 2007,” says Professor Cindy Farquhar, chair of the committee and professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland.

Reports using death data can be slower to release as assembling the confirmed cause of death can take some time.  “The time lag between a death occurring and confirming the cause can take months or even years subject to a range of factors, including coronial investigations,” says Professor Farquhar.  Despite this, the committee has already started work on reporting data for the year 2008.

“The loss of mothers and their babies has an enormous 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.  “A report such as this goes a long way to ensure that we can learn from these tragedies and identity where maternal and neonatal services may be improved,” says Dr Culling.

The report highlights that New Zealand’s perinatal and maternal mortality rates are similar to those of the United Kingdom and Australia. The majority of district health boards are reported to be within the national perinatal mortality rate," says Professor Farquhar.

Some of the 29 recommendations contained within this comprehensive report include establishing a national perinatal epidemiology unit, highlighting clinical areas of concern such as bleeding in pregnancy and detecting small babies before birth, developing national guidelines for safe sleeping environments, and improving public awareness of wearing a seat belt during pregnancy.

The full report of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee is available at


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