'Maternal deaths under-reported'

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

A maternity services campaign group has claimed the real figures for the number of women dying following childbirth in Ireland are under-reported and the actual figures could be much higher than official statistics show.

The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland (AIMSI) was commenting following reports today that a woman died at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on Tuesday shortly after giving birth. Her baby was delivered safely.

The woman, who was in her late 30s and lived in Monaghan, was already a mother to two boys.

Currently, maternal mortality in Ireland is calculated as a death of a woman when pregnant or within 42 days of the pregnancy ending. World Health Organisation guidelines are used to calculate this figure.

Our maternal mortality rates currently stands at at one per 100,000 live births, which is regarded as one of the lowest rates in the world. With around 80,000 births in Ireland each year, this means that maternal mortality is officially a very rare event in Ireland.

However, Krysia Lynch of AIMSI told irishhealth.com that if the criteria for defining maternal deaths were widened, as was currently occurring in the UK, the real figure in Ireland could be at least 10 deaths per 100,000 births.

The current UK rate is around 14 deaths per 100,000 births.

Ms Lynch said a recently-established Irish body called group called CMACE, which is linked to a similar group in the UK, is collecting data on maternal deaths, and is expected to widen the definition of maternal deaths to those occuring up to one year after delivery.

AIMSI claims Ireland's position as being one of the safest places in the world to for women to give birth is not based on true numbers.

Ms Lynch claimed there have been two recorded maternal deaths at one maternity unit in Dublin over the past year.

A high-profile recent maternal death was that of Tania McCabe (34), who died after giving birth to twins at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in March 2007. One of her twin boys also died.

According to Dr Michael O'Hare, of Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, the situaiton regarding maternal mortalithy in Ireland may not be as rowy as it would appear.

In a recent article in the Medical Independent journal, however, he said even takining this into account, maternal deaths in Ireland are still extermely rare, but using the new criteria may be around 10 per year.

Discussions on this topic are now closed.