Aboriginal mothers are up to five times more likely to die in childbirth

news.com 5 May 2013

Aboriginal mothers are up to five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to non-indigenous mothers, a national midwifery group says.

Aboriginal mothers are three to five times more likely to die during childbirth, and their babies two to three times more likely, Australian College of Midwives (ACM) president Sue Kruske says.

She said many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in remote areas were denied access to a midwife and instead treated by medical staff without specialised knowledge of maternity care.

"While inequalities are a global issue, we also want to raise awareness of local challenges," Professor Kruske said.

"Right here in Australia, maternal and perinatal mortality rates in our indigenous population continue to be far worse than the non-indigenous population."

There are less than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives registered in Australia.

The ACM is supporting a new scholarship fund by the Rhodanthe Lipsett Trust to boost indigenous midwives numbers.

Midwives Save Lives

Scholarship fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwife training

On 1st May the ACM announced their support for the Rhodanthe Lipsett Trust (RLT), a scholarship fund for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to become midwives.).

350,000 more midwives needed to achieve Millennium Development Goals by 2015

No mother should have to risk her life or that of her unborn baby by going through childbirth without expert care. Yet every year 48 million women still give birth without the support of someone with recognised midwifery skills. It is estimated that 350,000 extra midwives are needed to ensure universal coverage for maternity care.

The consequences of this are tragic. Over 287,000 women die each year as a result of preventable causes; millions of women suffer infection and disability, devastating families.

Every year 3 million babies are stillborn, 3.7 million babies die before one month of age and 7.7 million children die before the age of 5. Most of this is preventable with proper midwifery care.

"This is why every childbearing woman should have access to a midwife's care. The evidence shows that this is the most effective way to reach the Millennium Development Goals 4&5, targeting reducing maternal, neonatal and infant deaths worldwide," said Professor Kruske.

Australian midwives will join their colleagues around the world on the 5th of May to raise awareness about how the profession of midwifery saves lives around the world.

"While inequalities are a global issue, we also want to raise awareness of local challenges. Right here in Australia maternal and perinatal mortality rates in our Indigenous population continue to be far worse than the non-Indigenous population. Aboriginal Mothers are three to five times more likely to die during childbirth and their babies are two to three times as likely to die," said Professor Kruske. "In addition, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in rural and remote areas are also denied access to a midwife, with maternity care being provided by nurses or doctors without specialist skills in this area."

The RLT Chair, Professor Pat Brodie said, "With less than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives registered in Australia it is clear that more must be done. The scholarships from this fund will go towards some of the costs incurred when undertaking studies, which may not be covered by other funding options. We will be delighted to be able to announce the six successful inaugural scholarship

Don't wait for the government to care - contact Rhodanthe Lipsett Trust and/or Australian College of Midwives on behalf of your community to see what can be done.