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Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care: MBRRACE-UK’s seventh annual report

Posted: 07/12/2021

MBRRACE-UK (the national Maternal, New-born and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme) published their seventh annual report in December 2020. The report, entitled Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care, featured an enquiry into maternal deaths and morbidity in the years 2016 to 2018.

The figures showed that in this period of time, of the 2,235,159 women giving birth, 242 died during or up to six weeks afterwards, and 547 died during or up to one year after their pregnancy. Heart disease was the leading cause of death, followed by thrombosis and thromboembolism (blood clots). Maternal suicide was shown to be the fifth most common cause of women’s deaths during pregnancy and its immediate aftermath, and is the leading cause of death over the first year after pregnancy.

Of particular concern is the data on discrepancies in the outcome for ethnic minorities in the UK. In recent years, there has been a widening of the gap between Black and Asian ethnic groups, and white groups of women. The latest report showed that Black women are 4.4 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women. Women of mixed ethnicity, and those from Asian ethnic backgrounds, are respectively 3.2 and 1.9 times more likely to die than white women. Maternal mortality rates were also shown to be influenced by the mother’s country of birth. Women born in certain countries had a significantly higher risk of death compared to women born in the UK. Language barriers were also noted to be a problem. A number of the women who died, particularly from infections which are less common in the UK-born population, were Black or other minority ethnicity women who did not have English as a first language.

Responding to the worrying findings, Dr Edward Morris, president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said, “One area of concern highlighted in the report is the continued and unacceptable inequities in maternal mortality for Black, Asian, and mixed ethnicity women, and the urgent need for further research in this area. The RCOG will continue working to address disparities in girls' and women's health outcomes and experiences through the Race Equality Taskforce, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders including women, clinicians, and the UK Government to drive meaningful change. Progress will also depend on decisive government action, and we continue to urge the UK Government to commit to a target of a 50% reduction in maternal mortality for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic women over the next five years.”

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out the aim that ‘by 2024, 75% of women from Black and minority ethnic communities, and a similar percentage of women from the most deprived groups, will receive continuity of care from their midwife throughout pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period’, with the aim of reducing the disparity in both maternal and perinatal mortality.

Elizabeth Maloney, associate, looks at some of the initiatives taken following on from the MBRRACE-UK report in her article, which you can read here.

If you have any queries about pursuing a birth injury or maternity care claim, our specialist solicitors may be able to help. Please call us on 0800 328 9545, email or complete our online assessment form.

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