AIHW news

New data provides further insights into Australia’s mothers and babies

The article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Deanna Eldridge, Acting Head of the Perinatal Data Unit. 

Today my team have released an important update to Australia’s mothers and babies to improve understanding of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and maternal deaths.

The latest update provides information on causes, maternal characteristics, timing and investigations, helping us to build a more complete picture of perinatal and maternal deaths in Australia.

The AIHW acknowledges that every life lost to stillbirth, perinatal and maternal death is a tragedy and the impacts on families and communities are profound. We acknowledge and pay our respects to bereaved families represented in these data.

There were 295,976 babies born in 2020 and 3,004 perinatal deaths, a rate of 10.1 per 1,000 births.

Three-quarters of perinatal deaths were stillbirths (2,273) and the remaining 731 were neonatal deaths (7.7 stillbirths per 1,000 births and 2.5 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births).

The overall stillbirth rate has remained between 7 and 8 per 1,000 births between 2003 and 2020.

Other key findings include:

  • Since 2003, two categories of perinatal death have decreased: neonatal deaths of babies born at 23 weeks’ gestation or more and stillbirths occurring at 28 weeks’ gestation or more.
  • Rates of perinatal death decrease from 28 weeks’ gestation (3rd trimester) and were lowest among babies born at or near term (from 36 weeks’ gestation).
  • Congenital anomaly was classified as the cause of death for 1 in 3 (33%) perinatal deaths in 2020.

The highest rates of perinatal death were among:

  • Babies born at less than 23 weeks’ gestation
  • Babies born with a birthweight less than 2,500 grams
  • Babies who were small for gestational age (birthweight below the 10th percentile for their age and sex).

In 2020, there were 16 maternal deaths (the death of a woman during pregnancy, birth or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy) and the maternal mortality rate was 5.5 deaths per 100,000 women giving birth.

In the decade to 2020, there were 194 maternal deaths and a maternal mortality rate of 6.4 deaths per 100,000 women giving birth.

Through the institute’s ongoing monitoring of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and maternal deaths, our goal is to provide accurate and timely evidence for policy makers, health professionals, researchers, and the community to drive better outcomes for Australia’s mothers and babies.

If the information presented raises any issues for you, these services can help:

Sands Australia or Red Nose Australia on 1300 308 307

Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) on 1300 726 306

Miracle Babies Foundation on 1300 622 243

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