A rise in the number of high risk pregnancies is leading to a worrying number of women dying in labour or shortly after birth, leading doctors have claimed.

High risk pregnancies, including older or obese women, mean women can suffer a complicated mix of health problems, and doctors are being urged to be on their toes, as many of the complications are often avoidable or treatable, it is claimed.

The most common causes of maternal death were heart disease or neurological disease. In the majority of cases, however, this was due to substandard care, the report, published in the British Medical Journal, found.

The report's author, Catherine Nelson-Piercy, professor of obstetric medicine at King's College London, and colleagues called for improved GP training and an increase in the number of obstetric physicians.

"Obstetricians and midwives alone cannot reduce indirect maternal deaths - they need support from physicians and general practitioners," the authors said.

"But many doctors are unfamiliar with the interaction between pregnancy and medical disease, the safety of radiological investigations in pregnancy, and the risk-benefit ratio for the use of different drugs in pregnancy."

Posted by Robert Mair on 10.8.11 Please send your comments on this article to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com  

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