RECENT perinatal mortality rates in New Zealand are the lowest ever recorded, according to the latest information from
the New Zealand Health Information Service.
NZHIS has just released Fetal and infant deaths 1997 which shows that in 1997 for every 1000 births there were 10.2
perinatal deaths (stillbirths after 20 weeks of pregnancy and deaths of babies in the first week of life). Provisional
data for 1998 and 1999 show rates of 8.1 and 9 per 1000 total births - the lowest ever recorded.
Ministry of Health Senior Advisor Dr John Marwick said, "Figures vary a little from year to year, but the general trend
has been improving. The 1998 figure looks to be one of the lowest rates in the world - ahead of Australia, the UK,
Canada and the US."
Dr Marwick also said that the number of women dying during pregnancy or after delivery was very low. "Maternal mortality
data takes longer to determine but trends also seem to be improving with the number of maternal deaths dropping from 4
in 1996 to only 2 deaths registered in 1997."
"All deaths associated with pregnancy and birth are personal tragedies that affect many people's lives deeply," Dr
Marwick said. "But these latest findings are encouraging and suggest that our maternity system is delivering a good
standard of care."
Reports provided to the Ministry of Health by the Health Funding Authority also show changing trends in the types of
practitioners involved in maternity care.
Claims from June 1998 to March 2000 show that general practitioners make up about 18 percent of claimants at birth,
compared to about 40 percent prior to 1996. Claims from midwives between June 1998 and March 2000 accounted for about 57
percent of cases. Private specialists and hospitals make up the rest.