Maternal deaths are rare in Australia. But healthy women do still die during pregnancy and following birth. This report aims to identify trends in maternal mortality and develop an evidence base for maternal deaths to inform maternity services policy and practice.
In the triennium 2015–2017:
- 915,610 women gave birth in Australia
- 59 deaths were classified as directly or indirectly related to pregnancy
- the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 6.4 deaths per 100,000 women giving birth, which is the second lowest MMR reported in any triennium in Australia
- 12 deaths were classified as coincidental to pregnancy
- 1 death was still awaiting classification at time of publication.
The most common causes of Australian maternal deaths during 2015–2017 were suicide, cardiovascular disease, and sepsis.
The MMR continues to be higher among women who:
- identified as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- were aged 35 and over
- had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
- had given birth 4 or more times
- smoked in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Caution should be used when interpreting these data, due to the small number of maternal deaths in Australia, and even smaller numbers when these deaths are broken down by characteristics.
State and territory maternal mortality committees reviewed the maternal deaths for 2015–2017, and, in 26 cases, identified factors that might have contributed to the outcome. The most frequent contributory factors related to the woman, or her family, or her social situation, and to professional care issues.
The Maternal deaths in Australia series now documents 53 years of continuous maternal mortality audit in Australia.
- Purpose of this report
- What is a maternal death?
- Measuring maternal mortality
2. Overview of maternal deaths
- State or territory of maternal death
3. Demographic characteristics
- Age at death
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Remoteness of usual residence
- Socioeconomic area
- Country of birth
- Other maternal characteristics
- Body mass index
- Smoking during pregnancy
4. Clinical characteristics
- Antenatal care
- Complicating conditions during pregnancy
- Onset of labour
- Birth method
- Timing of maternal death
- Location of death
- Baby outcomes in maternal deaths
- Incidence of autopsy
- Contributing factors in maternal deaths
5. Causes of maternal deaths
- Causes of maternal deaths
- Causes of coincidental deaths
Appendix A: Data sources and method
- Data used in this report
- Reporting maternal deaths
- The Australian maternity context
- The international context
- Identifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
- Deaths by suicide
- Remoteness area
- Socioeconomic area
Appendix B: National Maternal Mortality Data Collection project governance
- The National Maternity Services Plan
- National Maternity Data Development Project
- National Maternal and Perinatal Mortality Clinical Expert Group
End matter: Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Symbols; Glossary; References; Related publications