Mothers in the UK are three times more likely to die around the time of pregnancy compared to those living in Norway and Denmark, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Oxford set out to compare maternal mortality rates in eight different European countries and discovered that Slovakia had the highest maternal death rate, followed by the UK. (The findings come after a different study* found that maternal mortality rates have risen in the UK).
The Oxford University research discovered that the rates of death among UK mothers in pregnancy and up to 42 days after the birth of their child were 9.6 maternal deaths for every 100,000 babies born. The UK data examined more than two million live births between 2016 and 2018.
Out of the eight countries studied, maternal death rates varied from from 2.7 per 100,000 live births in Norway (the lowest) up to 10.9 per 100,000 in Slovakia (the highest).
Both the mother’s age and ethnic group were significant, the study also found. Across all eight nations, maternal deaths were higher in both the youngest and oldest mothers.
In seven of the countries mothers born abroad or with an ethnic minority background had a 50% or greater risk of maternal mortality, showing a racial disparity. But this wasn’t the case for Norway, where researchers found that heart disease and suicide were the leading causes of death.
“Despite its rarity in high-income countries, maternal mortality remains an important health indicator of the quality of the care provided and health system performance,” the authors wrote in their new study, published in the British Medical Journal.
The authors said that the mental health of new mothers, as well as cardiovascular diseases, need to be “prioritised in all countries” and they called on nations to learn best practices from each other to reduce deaths.
This latest review comes after a different study suggested that maternal deaths in the UK and Ireland are rising. The latest MBRRACE report – a leading review tracking the health of mothers and their babies – found that 229 women died during or up to six weeks after the end of pregnancy in 2018 to 2020. This gives a maternal mortality rate of 10.9 women per 100,000 babies born – 24% higher than in 2017 to 2019.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues during or after pregnancy (or at any time),remember you’re not alone and help is out there. See your GP and the following charity can help: Mind.org.uk. For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In an emergency dial 999.
Additional reporting: PA News