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Australia continues to have one of the lowest maternal death rates in the world, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Maternal deaths in Australia 2003-2005, shows that over the three years from 2003-2005, only 65 maternal deaths occurred that were either directly or indirectly related to the pregnancy or its management.

'This figure is less than the previous three year period (2000-2002) in which 84 maternal deaths were reported,' said Associate Professor Elizabeth Sullivan of the Institute's National Perinatal Statistics Unit located at the University of New South Wales.

During the three-year period from 2003-2005, one woman died for every 11,896 women giving birth, giving a maternal death ratio of 8.4 per 100,000 women.

'Although this rate compares favourably with the rates in other developed countries, maternal death rates for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women are still more than two and a half times as high as for other women,' Associate Professor King, Chair of the National Advisory Committee Maternal Mortality said.

For Indigenous women, there were 21.5 deaths per 100,000 women giving birth, versus 7.9 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous women.

'The fact that Indigenous mothers continue to experience a higher rate of mortality than non-Indigenous women remains a serious concern,' he said.

The leading causes of maternal deaths for all women continue to be amniotic fluid embolism, thromboembolism and hypertension.

Cardiac disease, psychiatric related causes and haemorrhage were the main indirect causes of maternal deaths.

Friday 2 May 2008

Further information: Associate Professor James King, mob. 0419 720 281, or Associate Professor Elizabeth Sullivan, tel. 02 9382 1014, mob. 0439 994 820.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.

Availability: Check the AIHW Publications Catalogue for the availability of Maternal deaths in Australia 2003-2005.