Notes

Please note that numbers are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. Numbers may differ from previous reports due to revisions to the data.  

Data sources

This report is compiled from data held by the AIHW in the National Maternal Mortality Data Collection (NMMDC). Data are provided by states and territories and contain information on the deaths of women reported to have died while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy between 2006 and 2016.  

Due to their health and privacy legislation, only limited summary data on maternal deaths from 2006–2015 were supplied by Western Australia. As these data provided are already aggregated, rather than provided by case, they cannot be included in the NMMDC but are included in analysis where possible.

Data on maternal deaths were not provided for inclusion in this report for 2015-2016 from the Northern Territory or for 2016 from Western Australia.

For more information on this collection, visit the NMMDC Data Quality Statement.

Data was also sourced from the AIHW’s National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC) which includes accurate general population data for the number of women in Australia who gave birth to at least 1 baby (either a live birth or a stillbirth) of 20 weeks’ completed gestation or more or birthweight of 400 grams or more. For more information on this collection visit the NPDC Data Quality Statement.

State and territory health departments are acknowledged for their contribution to both the NMMDC and NPDC.

Definitions of maternal deaths

Type of death

Definition

Direct maternal deaths(a)

Those resulting from obstetric complications of the pregnant state (pregnancy, labour and puerperium) from interventions, omissions, incorrect treatment or from a chain of events resulting from any of the above

Indirect maternal deaths(a)

Those resulting from previous existing diseases or diseases that developed during pregnancy, and which were not due to a direct obstetric cause, but were aggravated by the physiologic effects of pregnancy

Maternal death, not further classified

Deaths considered to be related to the pregnancy or its management, but could not be further classified as either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’. These deaths are included in the maternal deaths total

Coincidental maternal deaths

Deaths from unrelated causes that happen to occur in pregnancy or the puerperium

Unclassified death

Maternal death from unspecified or undetermined cause occurring during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or the puerperium

(a) Definitions are from the International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, volume 2, section 5.8.1.

For more definitions of terms used in this report, see the glossary.

Calculation of the maternal mortality ratio

The incidence of maternal death is expressed as the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), which is calculated using direct and indirect deaths combined, and excludes coincidental deaths.

Although the most appropriate denominator for estimating maternal mortality would be the number of women at risk (the number of pregnant or recently pregnant women), this number is not available in Australia because the number of pregnancies ending before 20 weeks’ gestation is unknown. In Australia, accurate population data are available for the number of women who gave birth to at least 1 baby (either a live birth or a stillbirth) of 20 weeks’ completed gestation or more or birthweight of 400 grams or more and are held in the AIHW’s National Perinatal Data Collection; this is the denominator number used when calculating the MMR in this report.

Calculation of the MMR

MMR = (Number of direct and indirect maternal deaths(a)) / (Number of women who gave birth(a)) x 100,000

(a) For a defined place and time.

Data tables

Data tables for this report.