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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

Maternal Mortality in Australia

Target 3.1 of the Global Goals aims to address maternal mortality.

Maternal mortality, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes."

The Global Goals aim to reduce global maternal mortality ratios to 70 deaths per 100,00 live births. The current global maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be at 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. Australia's current maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be at 8.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. In this instance, Australia is well ahead of the target set by the 2030 Agenda.

However, there is always room for improvement.

  • In 2016, the highest cause of maternal death in Australia was suicide. This points to an obvious need to address the mental health and well-being of pregnant and new mothers in the community.

  • The mortality ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is 4.6 times as high as that of non-Indigenous persons. Drastic action needs to be taken to close the gap on this issue.

  • The age bracket with the highest incidence of maternal deaths per 100,000 live still births in Australia was for women under the age of 20, pointing to a need for better education and resources around pregnancy in young people.

  • Women who smoked during their pregnancy were 5 times as likely to experience a complication which led to death during their pregnancy, childbirth or the first 42 days after termination of their pregnancy than women who did not smoke during this period.

There is also the question of how we are working with our overseas development assistance (ODA) budget. Australia is specifically providing assistance to both Papua New Guinea and Cambodia to reduce their maternal mortality ratios, which are 215 and 161 deaths per 100,000 live births respectively.

Globally, we have seen great improvement in the maternal mortality ratio since the implementation of the Global Goal's predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals with some countries recording a decline of over 5.5% between the years 2000 and 2010. Between the years of 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality ratios declined by 44% globally.

Keeping our progress to date in mind, it is not completely out of the question that with the correct education and resources around maternal health, we can achieve 70 deaths globally per 100,000 live births as set out in Target 3.1 of the Global Goals by 2030.

This article was originally published on the Global Goals Australia Campaign website.

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