21 Nov 2009

Maternal deaths potentially avoidable, report shows

10:15 am on 21 November 2009

Almost half of the maternal deaths in New Zealand in 2007 were potentially avoidable, the Government has been told.

The latest report of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee has been released and shows 11 women died while pregnant or soon after giving birth in 2007.

Five of the deaths involved factors such as management of hypertension or complex problems and were potentially avoidable, the report says.

It recommends better management for pregnant women with complex medical conditions and says there is also a need for more accurate early reporting of births.

The committee also recommends that seatbelts be worn by all pregnant women and better distribution of Ministry of Health information on safe sleeping practices for babies.

The report shows New Zealand's perinatal mortality rate - the rate of babies dying in gestation or shortly after birth - is similar to that of Australia and the United Kingdom, at 9.8 deaths per 1000 births.