While Victoria and Australia experience some of the lowest maternal, perinatal and child mortality rates internationally, vulnerable women and children continue to experience poorer healthcare outcomes, the latest maternity and childhood data report reveals.
Produced by the independent Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity (CCOPMM), the Victoria’s Mothers, Babies and Children 2019 reporting suite contains comprehensive data on birth outcomes, and the health of mothers, newborns and children.
The report found that in 2019:
- caesarean rates continued to increase (37.2 per cent, up from 35.9 per cent in 2018)
- fewer women smoked (7.7 per cent smoked at any time during pregnancy, compared to 8 per cent in 2018)
- Aboriginal women were more likely to smoke during pregnancy than non-Aboriginal women (42.3 per cent compared with 7.3 per cent respectively), a gap that has widened since the previous year
- smoking was related to a higher rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (10.5 perinatal deaths per 1000 births for women who smoked at any time during pregnancy, compared to 8.6 per 1000 for women who did not)
- most women did not drink alcohol during pregnancy, with 1.4 per cent drinking any alcohol in the first 20 weeks and 0.6 percent after 20 weeks
- Victoria’s child and adolescent mortality rate is lower than the national average (2.8 deaths per thousand live births compared with 3.1 per 1000 in 2018), but children who have been known to child protection are over-represented in these deaths
- the leading causes of the 51 deaths in adolescents aged 15 to 17 years were intentional self-harm including suicide (33.3 per cent), motor vehicle accident (19.6 per cent) and other acquired disease (13.7 per cent).
The council has made 10 recommendations for improvement.
“Like in previous years we continue to see significant disparities associated with those who may be considered vulnerable,” CCOPMM Chair Adjunct Professor Tanya Farrell said.
“To address this our health and human services will require courage and the determination to change the way things are done today. We must not continue to say ‘it’s too hard, the time is not right’ or ‘we are not quite ready’. We must unpack these difficulties and overcome them. We must do this for, and with, women and families who are the experts in their own lives. They know what matters most to them.
“We must never lose sight of the women, their partners, parents and families who experience an outcome that is far from what they expected. As a community, as a clinician, as a consumer of care we should check in with ourselves every day and ask ‘if care or the situation was different, would the outcome have been different?’ or ‘are we/am I good to go today?’. We all need to understand where we fit, and how we contribute as an individual, a team and a service.”