Causes of maternal death

The most prominent cause of death groups are cardiovascular disease (heart disease), suicide, obstetric haemorrhage (bleeding from within the uterus, usually from the placenta), sepsis (infection complicating the pregnancy), non-obstetric haemorrhage (bleeding from other body sources and most frequently due to rupture of a major blood vessel), thromboembolism (blood clots migrating to and blocking major blood vessels, most frequently in the lungs), hypertensive disorders (high blood pressure conditions such as pre-eclampsia), amniotic fluid embolism (amniotic fluid entering the mother’s blood stream) and ectopic pregnancy (most frequently rupture of a pregnancy in the fallopian tube).

Figure 4: Causes of maternal death, Australia, 1973–2014

A number of the categories of cause of death have become less frequent over the last four decades (for example, hypertensive disorders and thromboembolism) as prevention and treatment have become more effective. The incidence of maternal deaths due to suicide and amniotic fluid embolism have remained relatively stable over this time period.

Figure 5: Causes of maternal deaths, Australia, 1973–1993 and 1994–2014