Comorbidities are the most significant contributor to maternal deaths, a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG).
The study, Factors associated with maternal death from direct pregnancy complications: a UK national case–control study, analysed data on 135 women who died between 2009 and 2012 and a control group of 1661 women who survived a severe life-threatening complication.It found that 70 per cent of maternal deaths were attributable to six factors: medical comorbidities, pregnancy problems, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, inadequate use of antenatal care, substance misuse and Indian ethnicity.
Medical comorbidities accounted for 49 per cent of the deaths analysed by the study. Conditions such as asthma, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory/atopic disorders, mental health problems, essential hypertension, haematological disorders, musculoskeletal disorders and infections were highlighted as being particularly dangerous to mothers giving birth.
Professor Marian Knight, co-author of the study, said: 'We found that uptake of antenatal care was poorer among women with medical comorbidities, which could increase adverse effects associated with these conditions. It is vital that this group of women receive preconception counselling and extra support throughout their pregnancy.'
RCM director for midwifery Louise Silverton said: 'One maternal death is one too many and the health service should be doing everything possible to ensure we tackle this serious issue.'