Definitions of maternal deaths

Type of death


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.

Data quality statement

National Maternal Mortality Data Collection, 2018; Quality Statement