Posted On: 10/12/2014
â€œNearly one in ten pregnant deaths caused by flu,â€ The Daily Telegraph reports. A review into maternal deaths, which thankfully remain rare, found that conditions such as the flu and sepsis account for many of the deaths. Maternal deaths are deaths in women that occur during their pregnancy or within six weeks after the end of their pregnancy.
Other headlines prompted by the review included the Mail Onlineâ€™s â€œHalf of deaths in pregnancy are 'avoidable'â€, pointing out that mental health and heart problems take a â€œheavy tollâ€.
BBC News took a more positive approach, pointing out that â€œMaternal death rates 'are falling'â€. Maternal death rates dropped from 11 per every 100,000 women giving birth during the 2006-08 period to 10 per every 100,000 women during the 2010-12 period.
The news stories are based on a report by researchers at the University of Oxford. It aimed to find the reasons for maternal deaths and illness (morbidity) between 2009 and 2012 in the UK and Ireland, and what lessons can be learned. They note that the focus is not on attributing blame, but on using these lessons to improve future maternity care. The UKâ€™s maternal death rates are now among the lowest in the world.
This is part of a programme of Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths, which has been running since 1952. The current programme, called the â€œMaternal Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programmeâ€, is provided by the MBRRACE-UK collaboration. MBRRACE-UK stands for Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK.
The current data covers the UK and, for the first time, the Republic of Ireland.
Data on maternal deaths is collected from various sources, including direct notification by individual maternity units, coroners, pathologists, midwives or members of the public, or though media reports. This is cross-checked with data from the Office for National Statistics and National Records of Scotland. The researchers also search for records of deaths in women of childbearing age, and compare these with birth records to identify any missing deaths.
The researchers send forms to the units in which the deaths occurred to find out demographic and medical details, causes of death, and provide contact details for the clinicians involved in their care. They then send questionnaires to the clinicians to ask about their views on the womenâ€™s care. All of these details and copies of the womenâ€™s medical records are provided to the MBRRACE-UK assessors for review, but only after any details that could identify the women are removed â€“ so the records are anonymous.
Their main findings were:
The reportâ€™s basic recommendations are that:
The report expands on these to make more detailed recommendations for various groups of staff in the healthcare system and professional organisations.
This included, for example, keeping the possibility of sepsis in mind at all times, ensuring women with any symptoms or signs of ill health in pregnancy have a full set of basic observationsÂ â€“Â such as temperature, blood pressure and breathing rateÂ â€“Â and ensuring that women get access toÂ available care. They also recommended that any maternal deaths should be reviewed locally by a multidisciplinary group.
A full version of the report is available in the further reading section below.
Nearly one in ten pregnant deaths caused by flu. The Daily Telegraph, December 8 2014
Maternal death rates 'are falling'. BBC News, December 9 2014
Better care urged for pregnant women with mental health problems â€“ study. The Guardian, December 9 2014
Half of deaths in pregnancy are 'avoidable': Oxford study lays bare heavy toll of mental health and heart problems. Mail Online, December 9 2014