Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health in Australia


According to WHO, the maternal mortality in many countries is very high; everyday about 800 women die because of childbirth-related illness and in 2013, 289, 000 women lost their lives during or after the process of childbirth (WHO, 2014). Besides, another repart from UNICEF showed that in the past decades both maternal and neonatal mortality rate are almost the same. In the 9.7 million children who died under five, 40 per cent of them died neonatal and 60 per cent of infant (under one) also died neonatal (UNICEF, 2012). Compared to these international statistics, the condition in Australia is much better. According to a repart in Commonwealth Health Online, in 2012, the infant mortality ratio in Australia was four deaths per 1,000 live births, decreasing from nine deaths in 1990. Meanwhile the maternal mortality ratio in Australia was seven deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 (Commonwealth Online, 2014). In fact, according to the information in the past ten years, from the perspective of morality rate, mothers, infants and children in Australia have always remained in a comparatively healthy state because of the ever-improving medical system in Australia and the efforts of many organizations such as the National Advisory Committee on Maternal Mortality (NACMM) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The first argument is that Australia medical system has successfully kept the expected and new mothers in Australia health and safe. The maternal mortality in Australia tends to remain in a low level. Since 1964, Australia began to repart and published data about maternal death every three years. Based on the information from the repart Maternal Death in Australia, 2003-2005 (Sullivan, Hall& King, 2008), Australia takes a more detailed definition of maternal death so that more cases will be included in the statistics. In Australia, maternal deaths are divided into three categories: direct deaths, like those caused by obstetric complications of the pregnant; indirect deaths, such as those caused by pre-existing diseases or the ones developing during pregnancy; and incidental deaths, mainly those resulting from those conditions appearing in pregnancy (Sullivan, Hall & King, 2008, p. 3). However, even in this case, Australia has restricted the maternal morality ratio to a very small number. Still in the repart, it can be discovered that from 2003 to 2005, 65 women were thought died direct or in directly connected childbirth and the relevant management activities, considering all deaths occurring when women were pregnant, or in the 42 days of the termination of pregnancy (Sullivan, Hall & King, 2008, p. 9). Compared to the huadreds of thousands of deaths around the world, the new mothers in Australia are a lot safer and healthier in the aspect of morality rate.

Australia cannot make such achievements without its high level medical system. Lots of efforts have been made in medical system to make pregnancy and childbirth safer and to keep pregnant women healthy. For example, in Queensland, the emergency medical system (EMS) is built which is a very effective and quick-reacted medical system offering treatment to people with acute illness and injury (Fitzgerald et al., 2009, p. 510). This system will guard the health of those mothers-to-be and new mothers very efficiently. And another repart NSW Mothers and Babies 2010 showed that in this area, a clinical network has been built in NSW in which medical support to these women including emergency, surgical, medical, maternity, hospital and community, community based services and supportive services like pathology, pharmacy and diagnostic imagining. What’s more, in this repart, it can be seen that NSW has made great efforts to do the role delineation work in order to make the whole network work more efficiently. In the process, the responsibility of giving the proper role description of the function of each medical facility falls on Local Health Districts (Centre for Epidemiology & Evidence, 2012, p. 13). And this process ensures that the clinical services offering to mothers are safe and proper.

The second argument is that because of the advanced medical system, the neonatal morality rate in Australia also remains in a comparatively low level compared to the international data. It is reparted by SA Health that there are 20344 babies born in South Australia in 2011 and 44 live births lost their lives within 28 days of birth (neonatal deaths) that means there is 2.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The repart also demonstrated that the neonatal morality rate in South Australia had been fewer than 6 per 1,000 live births and the number had been decreasing since 1986 (Maternal, Perinatal and Infant Mortality Committee, 2013, p.16 & p.18). Seeing new born babies die is no doubt makes one’s heart broken, but Australian people are much more fortunate than people in other countries especially those in developing countries like Cambodia, Burma and the Philippines, because the neonatal morality rate in Australia is a lot lower than that in those developing countries.

Australian medical system has been contributing a lot to caring for the new-born babies and keeping them healthy. Australia government and social organizations have worked very hard to improve the medical support for new born babies and to perfect the information network. In Western Australia, a database linking total population was established for monitoring the health of mothers and new-born babies and for epidemiological studies where vital statistics like the information of Western Australia hospitals and some notable birth defects are available (Stanley et al., 1994, p. 433). New born babies can get enough support from both Local Health Districts and individual hospitals where birth weight, gestational age and feeding are carefully monitored by professionals and where special and intensive care are available (Stanley et al., 1994, p. 38-49). At the same time, The South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines (SAPPG) is issued to outline the basic principles to improve pregnancy and newborn related conditions and managing the pregnant and newborn procedures (South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines, 2014).

The third argument is that social organizations have also played an important role in keeping mothers and children in Australia healthy. In fact, their significance lies in the valuable information they have offered. Organizations like NACMM and AIHW will gather and analyze the data about the maternal, neonatal and child health periodically and publish them. They will check the maternal, neonatal and child mortality rate in regular time. They also analyze the major causes of maternal, neonatal and child death for the public and the professionals to consult with. For example, Maternal Death in Australia 2003-2005 tells people that from 1997 to 2005, the major causes of direct maternal deaths are amniotic fluid embolism, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and thrombosis and thromboembolism. The major causes of indirect maternal deaths are, however, cardiac conditions, psychiatric causes and non-obstetric hemorrhage (Sullivan, Hall & King, 2008, p. 24). Their researches are in fact very useful. Hospitals and governments can consult the information they provide to improve the medical system of the country and further ensure the health of the mothers and children. Meanwhile, ordinary people can also find some ideas in their repart to get better methods to keep their wives and children healthy.


In conclusion, based on the information in the past decade, the maternal, neonatal and child mortality in Australia all remain in a comparatively low level compared to the data in other countries and areas, especially in developing countries, which show that the health condition of the expected mothers, new mothers, new born babies and little children are all quite good. And Australia cannot make such achievements without its effective and advanced medical network and the hard work of the social organizations.



Centre for Epidemiology & Evidence 2012, Mothers and Babies 2010, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.


Commonwealth Online 2014, Child and Maternal Health in Australia, viewed 2 June 2014, <



Fitzgerald, G., Tippett, V., Schuetz, M., Clark, M., Tighe, T., Gillard, N., Higgins, J. and Elcock, M. 2009, ‘Queensland Emergency Medical System: A structural and organizational model for the emergency medical system in Australia’, Emergency Medicine Australasia, vol. 21, pp. 510–514, doi: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2009.01244.x

Maternal, Perinatal and Infant Mortality Committee 2013, Maternal, Perinatal and Infant Mortality in South Australia 2011, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.

South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines 2014, SA Health, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.

Stanley, F. J., Croft, M. L., Gibbins, J. & Read, A. W. 1994, ‘A population database for maternal and child health research in Western Australia using record linkage’, Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 433-447.

Sullivan, E. A., Hall, B. & King, J. F. 2008, Maternal Death in Australia, 2003-2005,  Maternal deaths series, Canberra: AIHW, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) 2012, Maternal and Newborn Health, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.

World Health Organization (WHO) 2014, Maternal mortality, viewed 2 June 2014, <>.