Maternal deaths: The tip of the iceberg 


A prominent researcher is calling for Australia to overhaul its maternal death review process which is currently under-reporting the number of Australian women dying as a result of childbirth.

Charles Darwin University (CDU) researcher, Associate Professor Sue Kildea has called for an improvement in Australia’s maternal death review process to prevent further avoidable deaths as a part of her recently published paper.

Co-authored by CDU’s Professor Lesley Barclay, the paper entitled “Making Pregnancy Safer in Australia: the Importance of Maternal Death review” outlines the maternal death monitoring and review process in Australia and presents the salient features from the recently published Australian maternal death report.

The Associate Professor of midwifery at CDU’s Graduate School for Health Practice said that in Australia more than one woman died every fortnight as a result of childbearing.

“Despite being the marker of the health system’s performance, maternal deaths appear to have low priority in Australia due to poor resourcing and under-reporting of deaths and Indigenous status,” Dr Kildea said.

“The monitoring and reporting system needs to be strengthened in rigour.”

The latest report shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and rural and remote dwelling women, are more at risk of maternal death in Australia.

The paper emphasises the need for key professionals such as midwives, general practice obstetricians and obstetric specialists to work within effective health systems, to give women and newborns consistent access to skilled care throughout the reproductive cycle.

“Maternal death review is an essential component of any maternity service,” Dr Kildea said.

“This study reinforces the need to further investigate Australia’s review process, and to allocate more resources to improve the quality, timeliness and capacity of maternal death and severe maternal morbidity review in Australia.

“We are not doing as well as other similar countries in this respect.”