RANZCOG backs call for action to reduce inequitable and preventable deaths of mothers and babies

17 February 2021

"It is imperative that there is a timely, coordinated and resourced response from the health sector to address the latest findings of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC)," says Dr Celia Devenish, Chair of Te Kāhui Oranga ō Nuku of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). Dr Devenish endorsed the call from PMMRC for the health sector to address inequities in maternal and perinatal health and said, "It is disheartening that of the PMMRC recommendations since 2007, fewer than half have been fully implemented."

The PMMRC annual report, released on 16 February, investigates the factors contributing to perinatal mortality (stillbirths and baby deaths in the first 28 days of life), maternal deaths and neonatal brain injury (encephalopathy).

RANZCOG’s Te Kāhui Oranga ō Nuku endorses the PMMRC recommendation for a Ministry of Health funded Maternal and Infant Mental Health Network, prioritising a national pathway for accessing maternal mental health services, including culturally safe services.

"There is still an alarming lack of maternal mental health resources in Aotearoa," says Dr Devenish, “and unacceptable inequities remain”.  While the PMMRC report showed that perinatal mortalities (death prior to birth or within 28 days) have decreased significantly among babies of New Zealand European mothers since 2007 this is not the case for any other ethnic groups, with no significant progress being made to reduce mortality and morbidity for whānau Māori, Pasifika families, Indian families and those living in areas of high deprivation. The PMMRC report also confirmed that suicide continues to be the leading cause of maternal death in Aotearoa/New Zealand and particularly affects wāhine Māori.

Dr Devenish agreed with the message from PMMRC Chair Dr John Tait that the health sector needs to do better to ensure quality and equitable maternal and perinatal care is provided to all who need it.

"RANZCOG’s Te Kāhui Oranga ō Nuku fully supports the urgent implementation of PMMRC’s recommendations to reduce inequity and most importantly prevent avoidable perinatal and maternal deaths. The health sector needs to step up."

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Andre Khoury
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Dr Jessica Webb

Dr Jessica Webb is a year four FRANZCOG trainee, originally from Lismore, in the Northern Rivers region of far north New South Wales.



Dr Fleur Muirhead

Dr Fleur Muirhead is the elected CWH/DRANZCOG trainee representative on the RANZCOG Trainees’ Committee.



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