Making pregnancy safer in Australia: The importance of maternal death review


  • Potential conflicts of interest: Author 1 was employed by the National Perinatal Statistics Unit as a perinatal data analyst in 2005. Responsibilities included analysis of the maternal deaths data, collation of the Maternal Deaths Report 2000–2002 and secretariat to the National Committee. Author 2 was the Australian College of Midwives representative on the National Advisory Committee for Maternal Mortality during this period and Author 3 represented the Australian Council for Safety and Quality.

: Associate Professor Sue Kildea, Graduate School for Health Practice, Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia. Email:


Australia is one of the safest countries in the world to birth. Because maternal deaths are rare, often the focus during pregnancy is on the well-being of the fetus. The relative safety of birth has fostered a shift in the focus of maternal health, from survival, to the model of care or the birth experience. Yet women still die in Australia as a result of child bearing and many of these deaths are associated with avoidable factors. The purpose of this paper is to outline the maternal death monitoring and review process in Australia and to present to clinicians the salient features of the most recently published Australian maternal death report. The notion of preventability and the potential for practice to have an effect on reducing maternal mortality are also discussed.