National statistics, gathered by the University of Oxford and published in the Saving Lives: Improving Mothers’ Care report, found that 225 women died during or just after pregnancy between 2014 and 2016, a figure that has risen from 202 between 2013 and 2015.
Taking the size of the population into account, the national audit reveals that approximately 9.8 women died for every 100,000 giving birth in the latest three-year period, which represents a rise from 8.8 per 100,000.
Pregnancy rates are dropping for women of all ages apart from those over 40. The number of women having children in their 40s has risen three fold from 4.9 live births per 1,000 in 1981 to 14.7 births per thousand today.
And ‘older mothers’, who doctors describe as women aged 35 and over, now make up a fifth of all births in Britain.
But women aged 40 or over have three times the risk of dying during or after pregnancy compared to those in their early twenties.
And mums-to-be who are overweight are also more likely to suffer complications during pregnancy, have larger babies that require C-sections, or develop blood clots.
According to recent statistics almost six in 10 women (57%) in the UK are now overweight or obese.
“Women now are often older, heavier and have more complex physical and mental health conditions when they become pregnant,” the reports states.
“While we were once able to assume that pregnant women were by and large young and healthy, this is no longer always the case. Women in their 40s are three times more likely to die than women in their early 20s.
“It is time to start challenging our assumptions when faced with women with more complex health issues.”
Study leader Prof Marian Knight was keen to stress that the number of women who die during pregnancy is actually very low, but hoped doctors would be more aware of the higher risk to mothers because of their age or weight.
“Women and their families should be reassured that the number of women dying as a consequence of complications during or after pregnancy remains low in the UK.
“However, preventive treatments such as vaccination, or continuing medication in pregnancy, may be essential to keep healthy, particularly for women with known physical and mental health conditions.”
The news comes as it was revealed earlier this year that the number of women who have a heart attack during pregnancy, or within six months of delivering their baby appears to be on the rise.
And last year experts issued a warning to mums-to-be that the whole ‘eating for two’ thing could risk harming their health and the health of their babies.
Research from the National Charity Partnership in the UK has revealed that more than two-thirds of pregnant women have no idea how much they should be eating every day.
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