Report shows maternal deaths at highest levels for 20 years
Latest evidence from the MBRRACE-UK team at Oxford University (published 11 January 2024) shows the rate of mortality during pregnancy, or within six weeks of the end of a pregnancy, rose significantly between 2020 and 2022. Even when deaths from COVID are excluded, the death rate is markedly higher than in 2017-19. Stark inequalities have continued to widen as death rates have grown. Women living in the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to die during pregnancy and in the year after birth as women in the most affluent parts of the country. This is despite the government having set itself the target of reducing maternal mortality by 50% between 2010 and 2025.
Responding to the findings, Kirsty Kitchen, Birth Companions’ Head of Policy and Communications, said:
“It is truly shocking that, in one of the richest nations in the world, our maternal mortality rate is rising not falling, and that women in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to die than women in the more affluent areas.
“These latest figures are a symptom of years of austerity and its impact on our public services, which are in crisis. Professionals across health and social care – including GPs; children’s social care; health visiting; maternity; mental health; and domestic abuse services – are struggling to provide safe and effective care in the midst of huge pressures. They are unable to tackle the effects of worsening societal issues such as poverty, insecure housing, and hostile immigration policies on women’s health; yet they have to try to pick up the pieces. As a result, many women are falling through the cracks, with sometimes fatal results.
“We’re deeply concerned by these trends, which will almost certainly continue to worsen due to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.”
Birth Companions is a charity focused on improving care for pregnant women and mothers of infants experiencing disadvantage and inequality.