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Childbirth more dangerous for indigenous

Australia's indigenous women are dying at more than twice the rate of other women from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

There were 105 maternal deaths between 2008 and 2012, including women who died while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy, according to research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, released on Wednesday.

That equates to a mortality rate of 7.1 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth.

The report said those at increased risk were aged over 40, obese or of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.

It shows the maternal death rate among indigenous mothers was 13.8 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth - more than double that for non-indigenous women at 6.6 deaths.

"The increased risk of death in indigenous mothers remains a major concern," the report's author, professor Michael Humphrey, said.

The leading causes of death among all pregnant women and new mothers are cardiovascular disorders and psychosocial deaths related to mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Of the 16 women who died of psychosocial reasons, two were murdered, one died of a drug overdose, another had an adverse reaction to medication and 12 committed suicide.

The report found the risk of death from psychosocial conditions for indigenous women was five-fold that for non-indigenous women during the period between 2000 and 2012, while the risk of cardiovascular conditions was four-fold higher.

It said antenatal care early in pregnancy was particularly important for indigenous women for the detection and management of chronic disease.

"Services need to be aware of the higher rates of depression and suicide risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women compared with non-indigenous women," the report said.

Professor Humphrey said the figures should be interpreted with caution because of the small numbers and rare occurrence of maternal deaths.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Local Aboriginal Medical Service available from www.vibe.com.au

Click below to hear more from professor Michael Humphrey.

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