UK Maternity Deaths at Highest Level in 20 Years

More women dying during or soon after childbirth

Between January 2020 and December 2022, 13.41 deaths were recorded per 100,000 women in the UK either before, during or shortly after giving birth. This is the highest level of maternal death rates since 2003-05.

The latest figures come from a study conducted by MBRRACE, who annually investigate the deaths of pregnant women and new mothers in the UK. The study found that blood clots were the leading cause of death in 2020-22. This was followed by Covid-19, heart disease and mental health-related illnesses.

Black women and women from deprived areas at higher risk

Although the maternal death rate for black women has decreased slightly since the last MBRRACE survey, women from black ethnic backgrounds are still three times more likely to die before, during or after childbirth than white women.

There is also a higher risk to Asian women, who are currently twice as likely to die during or shortly after giving birth compared to white women.

Socio-economic factors have had a significant impact on maternal mortality rates, too. In 2020-22, women from the most deprived areas in the UK were twice as likely to die as those from the least deprived areas.

We spoke to our head of legal services and medical negligence expert Jacqueline Busby about these latest figures:

“Sadly, inequality in maternity care is not a new problem. But the latest study from MBRRACE further highlights the need for urgent and significant improvement in this area.

It’s essential that all women, regardless of race or social background, have access to quality healthcare throughout their pregnancy and during childbirth.

Pregnancy is an exciting but scary time, and a lot of women will feel at their most vulnerable before, during and after childbirth. This makes it even more important that the right support is available at every stage.”

Inclusive care must be prioritised as ‘matter of urgency’

Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit Professor Marian Knight has pointed to “clear examples of maternity systems under pressure” within the latest MBRRACE study. But she also emphasised the importance of building “inclusive and personalised care”.

Similarly, Dr Nicola Vousden, co-chair of the Faculty of Public Health Women’s Health Specialist Interest Group, said it was important to acknowledge “underlying structures that impact health before, during and after pregnancy, such as housing, education and access to healthy environments”.

We understand how scary it can be if something goes wrong during pregnancy or childbirth. That’s why we’re here to help families when medical negligence has hurt them.

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