The number of pregnant women dying from hemorrhage or infection doubled in the three year period 1988-90, compared with 1985-7, according to the latest British statistics. Nearly half of those deaths were due to substandard care.
A common concern was the high number of cases in which major problems were handled by junior doctors.
The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths discovered that 238 women died during pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery during 1988-90. The overall rate of maternal deaths remains at 10 per 100,000 in the UK which, while being half the rate of 1973, has not fallen for three years.
The most common causes of maternal death are thrombosis and thromboembolism blocked blood vessels hypertensive (high blood pressure) disorders, hemorrhage, and ectopic pregnancy, which between them account for 60 per cent of all maternal deaths.
In the 27 deaths due to hypertensive disorders, care was judged to be substandard in 90 per cent of cases. Care was also considered inadequate in half of all deaths due to hemorrhage.
Obstetricians and gynecologists in the UK look set to endorse the mother’s absolute right to decide what medical treatment she has. This would prevent hospitals applying for court orders to force women into caesareans against their will. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is expected to approve the stance, which has already been endorsed by the American Medical Association after a series of caesarean sections were ordered by courts across the US.