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RCOG statement: Maternal death report highlights heart disease risk for pregnant women

News 7 December 2016

The latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity report Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care highlights that in 2012-2014, 200 women died during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

This report focuses specifically on deaths due to cardiac disease, the largest single cause of maternal death in the UK, with a total of 189 women dying from the condition between 2009 and 2014. The leading cause of direct death are thrombosis and thromboembolism, followed by suicide.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“This report highlights that the rate of maternal death is low in the UK, with 8.5 women per 100,000 women dying during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Maternity care in the UK is both safe and effective, however one death is too many and as healthcare professionals, we must learn from these unfortunate deaths in order to prevent them in future.

“It is welcome news that the number of women dying from sepsis has decreased due to a dramatic reduction in influenza deaths. The number of deaths from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy has also reduced significantly over the last 60 years, reinforcing the critical role of translating research and evidence-based guidance into clinical practice.

“Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of maternal death in the UK, this requires multidisciplinary input from obstetricians, midwives, physicians, anaesthetists, GPs, and critical care staff in order to be treated effectively. As our maternity population becomes more clinically complex, we must move away from being a disease intervention service and instead promote the importance of preventative measures to improve the health of all women at every age and stage of their lives. To do so successfully, we need to place women at the centre of their care, educating them and empowering them to seek healthier lifestyles. Health services can fix only one third of the problem and changes to lifestyle and reducing health inequalities contributes the remaining two thirds.

“It is particularly saddening that the number of maternal suicides remains unchanged since 2003 and is now the leading cause of direct maternal deaths occurring within a year of childbirth. Greater integration between primary and secondary care is urgently required to ensure that women with significant medical and psychiatric conditions are assessed before becoming pregnant. They need to be referred for specialist care in a timely manner to ensure that the woman receives the right support throughout her pregnancy and beyond. Improving maternal mental health is a priority for both the RCOG and our current Government.

“Globally, the problems facing women in the developing world are no different to the problems facing women in the UK. The scale and the barriers to effective change vary in different places but the root causes and the solutions are similar. We are committed to playing our part in scaling up our efforts to meet the needs of patients everywhere.”


For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office on 0207 045 6773 or email