Women in Britain are more than twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in Poland, Austria or Belarus, reveals a new report.
Save the Children’s 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report found women in the UK face a one in 6,900 lifetime risk of maternal death.
This is much higher than Poland where the lifetime risk is one in 19,800, Austria at one in 19,200 and Belarus at one in 45,200.
“The number of births has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade and is at its highest for 40 years”
The UK only just made it into the top 25 countries in the world to be a mother, coming 24th in the charity’s Mothers’ Index. However, this is better than in 2014 when the UK came 26th.
Factors that have contributed to an increase in high-risk births include more multiple births as a result of IVF treatment, more women over 40 having children, and more pregnancies among women with obesity or other physical and mental health problems.
However, the Royal College of Midwives stressed the UK was still one of the safest places in the world to give birth and that maternal deaths have gone down in recent years.
Meanwhile, the report does not explore in detail why there are variations in maternal death rates between countries, said the college.
A separate review of all maternal deaths in the UK and Ireland from 2009-12, carried out by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, found the maternal death rate had gone down, with a significant drop in the number of deaths as a direct result of pregnancy.
“The decrease in the rate comes at a time when the number of births has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade and is at its highest for 40 years,” said RCM head of education and learning Carmel Lloyd.
She said an increase in the proportion of women with “complex” pregnancies had increased the risks in childbirth and put greater pressure on maternity services, which had suffered from staffing shortages and lack of funding.
The Save the Children report, which draws together data from UN agencies and other sources, ranks countries on five key factors – risk of maternal death, under five mortality rate, educational status, economic achievement and women’s political status.
The three highest rankings all went to Scandinavian countries, with Norway in the top spot followed by Finland and Iceland.