NZ women face 1 in 3300 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth - report

Having a baby when you're younger significantly reduces breast cancer risk. File photo / Thinkstock
Having a baby when you're younger significantly reduces breast cancer risk. File photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand women face a one in 3300 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, the fourth worst odds among 34 industrialised countries included in Save the Children's annual State of the World's Mothers report.

New Zealand children fared slightly better than their mothers. At 5.9 child deaths per 1000 live births, New Zealand ranked fifth worst in the industrialised world.

The report ranked 176 countries to show where mothers and children fared best and where they faced the greatest hardships using education, income, political status, maternal health and child mortality as indicators.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was found to be the toughest place in the world to be a mother and Finland the best. New Zealand ranked 17th overall.

New Zealand Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee chairwoman Cindy Farquhar disputed the figures, with the committee's own report showing about one in 8000 women died in pregnancy or childbirth.

New Zealand had a comprehensive data collection system, unlike Australia, which may account for why they rated better in the report.

"For the majority of women we have a very safe and effective system. I'm not going to say it's a first class system, because there are deaths we have identified that are potentially avoidable, but I think we do very well in general," she said.

There were certainly areas for improvement.

"We do have a lot of women who are overweight when they're getting pregnant so they're getting problems like diabetes during pregnancy, and we have a lot of women who are still smoking and drinking during pregnancy. We need better advice around that.

"And obviously it would be optimal if women were healthy before they became pregnant. Unfortunately, because they haven't planned the pregnancy sometimes this is not possible," she said.

"The other problems we've found in our report relate to organisation of maternity care and the lack of policies and guidelines on care in labour and complications during pregnancy, which we have highlighted through a range of educational workshops and our annual reports."

The Save the Children report found that while huge gains had been made in reducing the number of children dying before the age of 5 globally, millions of newborn babies still died each year from preventable and treatable causes.

Every year, three million newborn babies die - nearly half of the world's under-5 child deaths - with the report concluding that the first day of life was by far the riskiest.

- APNZ

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