The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s (PMMRC’s) Eleventh Annual Report shows one stillbirth for every 196 births in 2015, which is a small but significant improvement from when reporting first began in 2007, when there was one stillbirth for every 178 births.

Dr Sue Belgrave, the commmitte chair, says a number of initiatives to improve pregnancy care are likely to have contributed to the reduction in baby deaths shortly before or after birth.

‘These include reduced rates of smoking among pregnant women, better and earlier access to antenatal care so that risk factors such as small babies and maternal diabetes can be detected and managed, and there was a decrease in births among teenage women suggesting improved access to contraception.

‘Each death is a tragedy for the family and whānau involved, and it is very important to reduce these deaths and enhance maternity care in New Zealand.’

The committee also reported there were 11 maternal deaths in 2015 with the rate for Māori mother almost double that of New Zealand European mothers.  Suicide of mothers accounted for over a quarter of maternal deaths between 2006-2015 with Māori women over-represented in the deaths by suicide.

Dr Belgrave says it is important women are well supported throughout and after their pregnancy.

‘This includes registering with a lead maternity carer within the first three months of your pregnancy, and if you are a smoker, receiving help and support to quit. If you are feeling depressed or stressed, tell your doctor or midwife – they can help.’

The government last week announced a new “Better Public Health” target focused on healthy pregnancy and safe births with the main target measure being 90 per cent of pregnant women across all population groups being registered with a Lead Maternity Carer in the first trimester.

Other report findings included:

  • The neonatal mortality ratehas not changed from 2007 to 2015
  • There has been a statistically significant reduction in fetal deaths (stillbirths and late terminations of pregnancy combined) from 2007 and 2015
  • There were an unusually high number of deaths of babies at 41 weeks’ gestation in 2015


  • A perinatal death is the death of a baby from 20 weeks gestation (pregnancy) up to 28 days after birth, or weighing a least 400g if gestation is unknown.
  • A stillbirth is a baby who is born from 20 weeks of pregnancy without any signs of life.
  • A neonatal death is the death of a baby from live birth to 27 days of age.
  • A maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy.


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