There has been an increase in mothers dying from infection, but a fall in maternal deaths overall in the past three years, the eighth report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths has found.
The report, produced by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries, also found there had been a fall in the inequalities gap between mothers for the first time, with a significant decrease in maternal mortality rates for women from the most deprived areas, and from the lowest socio-economic groups.
Figures from the report show that the maternal mortality rate between 2006 and 2008 was 11.39 per 100,000 live births, compared to 13.95 per 100,000 in the previous three years.
The direct death rate (deaths that could only have happened if the woman was pregnant) fell to 4.67 per 100,000 births in 2006-8, down from 6.24 per 100,000 in the previous three years.
The biggest cause of these deaths was infection, and the report calls for healthcare workers and mothers to be aware of the need for scrupulous hygiene, especially after birth.
The number of deaths from infection rose to 1.13 per 100,000 births in 2006-8, from 0.85 per 100,000 in the three previous years.
The authors of the report included a chapter called “Back to basics”, which includes a list for the identification and management of the most commonly occurring conditions in pregnancy.
CMACE clinical director, Imogen Stephens, said: “This report has highlighted several key areas for those working in maternity services to heed, in particular the need for GPs and midwives to identify women requiring specialist care and the need for quick referrals.”
Royal College of Midwives general secretary Cathy Warwick said: “This is good news, as the stillbirth rate has dropped a little after a marginal increase.
“However, the effect of obesity, deprivation and ethnicity on maternal health outcomes continues and this emphasises the need to direct more resources to mothers in these groups in order to reduce the gap between best and worst outcomes during childbirth. At a time when resources are tight, it is vital that care is both effective and efficient.”