UK women ‘more likely to die’ around pregnancy than Norway and Denmark mothers

Mothers in the UK are three times more likely to die around the time of pregnancy compared to those in Norway and Denmark, a new study suggests.

Researchers set out to compare maternal mortality rates in eight European countries.

They found that Slovakia had the highest maternal death rates among the countries studied.

The UK had the second highest mortality rate.

It comes after a major new review found that maternal mortality rates have risen in the UK.

The new study, by an international team of researchers including academics from the University of Oxford, examined data on millions of live births across Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and the UK.

The UK data included information on more than two million live births between 2016 and 2018.

They found that the rates of death among mothers in pregnancy and up to 42 days after the birth of their child varied from 2.7 per 100,000 live births in Norway to 10.9 per 100,000 in Slovakia.

In the UK there were 9.6 maternal deaths for every 100,000 babies born.

Across all eight nations, maternal deaths were higher in the youngest and oldest mothers.

In seven countries mothers born abroad or with an ethnic minority background had a 50% or greater risk of maternal mortality. The finding did not hold true in Norway.

Researchers said heart disease and suicide were the leading causes of death.

In the UK blood clots were also a leading cause of death among new mothers.

“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 BMJ.

“Maternal mortality ratios up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy varied by a factor of four, from 2.7 and 3.4 per 100,000 live births in Denmark and Norway to 9.6 in the UK and 10.9 in Slovakia.”

The authors said that cardiovascular diseases and mental health of new mothers need to be “prioritised in all countries” and they called on nations to learn best practises from each other to reduce deaths.

It comes after the latest MBRRACE report – a leading review tracking the health of mothers and their babies – suggested that maternal death in the UK and Ireland are rising.

The report 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.