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Perinatal death rate at its lowest in a decade

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

National News

A decrease in births among teenage girls is a contributing factor to New Zealand having the lowest rate of babies dying shortly before or after birth (perinatal mortality) since records began in 2007.

In 2015, there was one stillbirth per 196 births, according to the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC’s) Eleventh Annual Report.

The committee said this was a small but significant improvement from its first report in 2007, when there was one stillbirth for every 178 births.

Several initiatives aimed at improving pregnancy care are believed to have contributed to the reduction in deaths.

These initiatives include better and earlier access to antenatal care, and support for pregnant women to quit smoking.

The PMMRC also points to a decrease in births among teenage girls.

Family Planning’s National Medical Advisor, Dr Christine Roke, says this would be partly due to improved access to contraception, particularly long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).

LARCs such as the contraceptive implant and intra uterine device (IUD) are increasingly popular among young women, are affordable, and last between 3 and 10 years.

“The teen birth rate and the teen abortion rate have trended downwards since 2008 – we believe that highly effective contraception – what we often call 'fit and forget' contraception because once it’s in place, there no room for user error - is likely to be a significant contributor to this trend,” Dr Roke says.

Other report findings include:

  • The neonatal (first 4 weeks of life) mortality rate has not changed from 2007 to 2015
  • There has been a statistically significant reduction in foetal deaths (stillbirths and late terminations of pregnancy combined) from 2007 and 2015
  • There were 11 maternal deaths in 2015
  • The maternal death rate for Māori mothers is almost double that of New Zealand European mothers
  • Suicide of mothers accounted for 26 percent of maternal deaths from 2006 to 2015, and Māori women were over-represented in deaths from suicide.

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