The rate of babies dying from 20 weeks of pregnancy to 28 days old (perinatal mortality rate) has fallen to the lowest number since reporting began in New Zealand.
The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s (PMMRC’s) ninth annual report, released today, shows there was one death for every 100 babies born in New Zealand in 2013.
“Although the overall reduction in perinatal mortality is not statistically significant, any reduction is encouraging,” says PMMRC chair Dr Sue Belgrave.
The overall reduction in perinatal mortality included a significant reduction in stillbirths at term (after 37 weeks of pregnancy) from 117 in 2007 to 69 in 2013.
The report has issued several recommendations which align with work to improve maternity services at Waikato DHB.
Over the past two years Waikato DHB has already begun implementing several of these recommendations as part of the organisation’s maternity quality and safety programme.
Several changes to the way staff screen for foetal development and environmental risks to both mother and foetus are aimed to reduce the number of maternal and neonatal deaths in the region.
The 7th PMMRC report (2013) identified that Waikato DHB had an apparent higher neonatal encephalopathy rate (disturbed neurological function in term infants occurring in the first seven days after delivery). An initial review identified three commonalities – the scope in reporting cases, geographical issues and sick mothers or acute perinatal events.
The review led to a multidisciplinary team being established between midwifery, obstetrics and neonatology, all of whom now work together to review the information collected on infants from Waikato Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with neonatal encephalopathy.
Today the team will present their key learnings at the PMMRC conference in Wellington.
In addition to the multidisciplinary team Waikato DHB has trained 555 current staff in family violence intervention across emergency, maternity and children services.
Several new clinical guidelines have also become standardised practice to ensure any risks to pregnant women or their foetus are identified earlier in their pregnancy.
The appointment of a perinatal loss specialist midwife has led to a closer relationship between the Waikato District Health Board and Sands – a national not-for-profit family support organisation – to better support families and whanau who lose their baby soon after birth or deliver a still born.
This has led to increased training for midwives on how to better care for families in their time of grief and several changes are to be considered for Waikato DHB’s Women’s Assessment Unit.
Midwives are also helping reduce the risk of perinatal and maternal loss by increasing awareness of smoking while pregnant and the impact of influenza. Two campaigns led by the Waikato DHB have increased accessibility to quit smoking services and to free influenza vaccines for pregnant women.