Deaths during pregnancy are on the rise again ‘due to obesity rates and increasing age of expectant mothers’
- After years of decline, deaths during pregnancy are starting to rise again
- Obesity and the increasing age of mothers is responsible, experts have said
- 225 women died during or just after pregnancy between 2014 and 2016
Deaths during pregnancy are rising again after years of decline, a national audit has found.
Obesity and the increasing age of mothers is behind the rise in fatalities, undermining the sustained safety improvements seen in previous years, experts believe.
National statistics gathered by the University of Oxford reveal 225 women died during or just after pregnancy between 2014 and 2016, up from 202 between 2013 and 2015.
Taking the size of the population into account, it shows 9.8 women died for every 100,000 giving birth in the latest three-year period, a rise from 8.8 per 100,000.
The report reveals maternal deaths in the UK had been dropping since 2003, when the audit first started.
Obesity and the increasing age of mothers is behind the rise in fatalities, undermining the sustained safety improvements seen in previous years, experts believe
Deaths fell from 14.0 per 100,000 in 2003-05 to 8.5 per 100,000 in 2012-14, but then started to rise again.
Study leader Professor Marian Knight, of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, stresses that only a very small number of women die during pregnancy, but says doctors must be aware of the higher risks to mothers of obesity and age.
‘Women now are often older, heavier and have more complex physical and mental health conditions when they become pregnant,’ the reports states.
‘While we were once able to assume that pregnant women were by and large young and healthy, this is no longer always the case. Women in their 40s are three times more likely to die than women in their early 20s.
‘It is time to start challenging our assumptions when faced with women with more complex health issues.’
Blood clots, particularly venous thromboembolisms, remain the biggest cause of death during pregnancy.
These clots are particularly a problem among the overweight, and the risks also rise with age, the authors said.
‘Thus it is likely that venous thromboembolism in association with pregnancy will become an even greater problem without careful attention to prevention,’ they wrote.
National statistics gathered by the University of Oxford reveal 225 women died during or just after pregnancy between 2014 and 2016, up from 202 between 2013 and 2015
Experts are increasingly concerned about obesity among mothers-to-be and last year warned the problem had reached ‘pandemic proportions’. Half of all women are overweight or obese at the start of their pregnancy, official figures show.
The average age at which women give birth has soared in the last four decades, rising to 30.4 in 2016 from 26.4 in 1974.
The report also shows too many women put themselves at risk because they stop taking medication when they become pregnant for fear of harming their baby, even when the drugs are perfectly safe.
‘When you find out you are pregnant, don’t stop taking your medications without discussing this with your usual doctor,’ the report said.
‘Looking after your health is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.’