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Women Birth. 2009 Sep;22(3):97-104. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

Maternal mortality: what can we learn from stories of postpartum haemorrhage?

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Centre for Midwifery, Child & Family Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.


Death from pregnancy is rare in developed countries such as Australia but is still common in third world and developing countries. The investigation of each maternal death yields valuable information and lessons that all health care providers involved with the care of women can learn from. The aim of these investigations is to prevent future maternal morbidity and mortality. Obstetric haemorrhage remains a leading cause of maternal death internationally. It is the most common cause of death in developing countries. In Australia and the United Kingdom, obstetric haemorrhage is ranked as the 4th and 3rd most common cause of direct maternal death respectively. In a number of cases there are readily identifiable factors associated with the care that the women received that may have contributed to their death. It is from these identifiable factors that both midwives and doctors can learn to help prevent similar episodes from occurring. This article will identify some of the lessons that can be learnt from the recent Australian and UK maternal death reports. This paper presents an overview of the process and systems for the reporting of maternal death in Australia. It will then specifically focus on obstetric haemorrhage, with a focus on postpartum haemorrhage, for the 12-year period, 1994-2005. Vignettes from the maternal mortality reports in Australia and the United Kingdom are used to highlight the important lessons for providers of maternity care.

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