11 January 2024
The latest set of data presented by the MBRRACE-UK Collaboration investigation into maternal deaths in the UK shows that the mortality rate for women who died during or soon after pregnancy has increased to levels not seen since 2003-05.
The investigation, which is led by Oxford Population Health’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, includes data on all women who died during pregnancy or within six weeks after their pregnancy had ended in the UK between January 2020 and December 2022. The data have been published ahead of the full Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care report, which will be published later this year.
The key data show that:
- The maternal death rate in 2020-22 was 13.41 deaths per 100,000 maternities. This is significantly higher than the maternal death rate of 8.79 deaths per 100,000 maternities reported in the previous complete three year period (2017-19);
- Even when deaths as a result of COVID-19 are excluded, the maternal death rate for 2020-22 (11.54 deaths per 100,000 maternities) remains higher than the rate for 2017-19;
- Thrombosis and thromboembolism was the leading cause of death in women who died during pregnancy or within six weeks of their pregnancy ending. COVID-19 was the second most common cause of death, followed by heart disease and mental-health related causes;
- The maternal death rate for women from Black ethnic backgrounds has decreased slightly from the rate in 2019-21 but Black women remain three times more likely to die compared to White women. The maternal death rate for women from Asian ethnic backgrounds remains two times higher than that of White women;
- Women living in the most deprived areas still have a maternal death rate more than twice that of women living in the least deprived areas.
Professor Marian Knight, Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit and MBRRACE-UK maternal reporting lead, said ‘These data show that the UK maternal death rate has returned to levels that we have not seen for the past 20 years. The 2023 MBRRACE-UK maternal confidential enquiry report identified clear examples of maternity systems under pressure and this increase in maternal mortality raises further concern. Ensuring pre-pregnancy health, including tackling conditions such as overweight and obesity, as well as critical actions to work towards more inclusive and personalised care, need to be prioritised as a matter of urgency now more than ever.’
Dr Nicola Vousden, Co-Chair of the Faculty of Public Health Women’s Health Specialist Interest Group, said ‘Persisting inequalities by ethnicity and socioeconomic status indicate that we must think beyond maternity care to address the underlying structures that impact health before, during and after pregnancy, such as housing, education and access to healthy environments.’
The data brief, including charts that show the increase in maternal deaths since 2003-05, is published on the MBRRACE-UK website.
Notes to editors
For further information or for interview requests, please contact:
Lulu Phillips, Communications Officer, Oxford Population Health
email@example.com or +44 (0) 1865 617824
About Oxford Population Health
Oxford Population Health (the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford) investigates the causes and prevention of disease. The department has over 900 staff, students and academic visitors working in a number of world-renowned population health research groups, including the Cancer Epidemiology Unit (CEU), Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU), and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), and other groups working on public health, health economics, ethics and health record linkage. It is also a key partner in the Oxford University Big Data Institute.
About the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU)
The NPEU is an internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary research unit based within Oxford Population Health (the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford). The Unit undertakes research about pregnancy, childbirth and newborn babies. Funding is provided by grants from a variety of sources including the Department of Health Policy Research Programme, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), other funding agencies and medical research charities. As part of the NPEU programme of work, researchers lead the MBRRACE-UK collaboration delivering the national Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme.
About the Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme
The Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme, delivered by MBRRACE-UK, is commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP). HQIP is led by a consortium of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing, and National Voices. Its aim is to promote quality improvement in patient outcomes.
The Clinical Outcome Review Programmes, which encompass confidential enquiries, are designed to help assess the quality of healthcare, and stimulate improvement in safety and effectiveness by systematically enabling clinicians, managers, and policy makers to learn from adverse events and other relevant data. HQIP holds the contract to commission, manage, and develop the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP), comprising around 40 projects covering care provided to people with a wide range of medical, surgical and mental health conditions.
The Maternal, Newborn and Infant Clinical Outcome Review Programme is funded by NHS England, the Welsh Government, the Health and Social Care division of the Scottish government, The Northern Ireland Department of Health, and the States of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.