It has been reported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ("RCOG") that, “one in every 10,000 pregnancies in the UK and Ireland results in death of the mother.” This is the equivalent of one every other day. Of these 10,000 deaths, 32% was due to direct consequences of complications during pregnancy with 68% resulting from indirect medical and/or mental health problems.
On 22 June 2016, the RCOG launched a collaborative project to help doctors assess the wellbeing of pregnant and post-partum women. This innovative project is aimed, amongst other areas, to “enhance inter-specialty communication and teamwork.” When assessing pregnant and post-partum women, doctors are advised to ask questions and enquire from their peers or other specialists which should facilitate prompt referrals to specialty departments.
The RCOG advises Doctors “to familiarise themselves with their patient’s medical history with emphasis on pre-existing medical or mental health problems.” With the humbling statistic that “three quarters of women who died had a previous history of medical or mental health problems,” the NHS and society must take an active role to protect our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends.
Unfortunately many women must solely rely on their doctors to identify any condition or even vulnerability which may be the result of potentially complex social backgrounds. These situations may include where the woman is the victim of physical or psychological abuse. Doctors must further consider whether there may be a history of abuse including substance abuse.
Failure by the doctors and medical providers to identify the appropriate care needed may potentially lead to the necessary clinical or medical negligence claims against the doctors, surgeries or NHS trusts to ensure that financial provisions are in place for the care of the motherless child.
The RCOG has noted that “The number of women who died following medical or mental health problems has not seen any significant decrease.” Until these deaths are reduced, the burden of raising infants and children without mothers will rest on the families and friends of these mothers.